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Helaine Silverman 

Cultural Heritage 

Religion, Nationalism, Erasure, and 
Exclusion in a Global World 


Contested Cultural Heritage 

Helaine Silverman 

Contested Cultural Heritage 

Religion, Nationalism, Erasure, 
and Exclusion in a Global World 

4^ Springer 


Helaine Silverman 
Department of Anthropology 
University of Illinois at 
607 S. Matthews Avenue 
Urbana, IL 61801, USA 

ISBN 978-1-4419-7304-7 e-ISBN 978-1-4419-7305-4 

DOI 10.1007/978-1-4419-7305-4 

Springer New York Dordrecht Heidelberg London 

Library of Congress Control Number: 2010938126 

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011 

All rights reserved. This work may not be translated or copied in whole or in part without the written 
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Printed on acid-free paper 

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What a pleasure it is to write these brief remarks presenting the next volume 
in the publication series on cultural heritage undertaken by the Collaborative for 
Cultural Heritage and Museum Practices (CHAMP) at the University of Illinois 
at Urbana-Champaign through the extraordinary vision of our editor at Springer, 
Teresa Krauss. Volume 1 dealt with Cultural Heritage and Human Rights (Springer, 
2007). Volume 2 was concerned with Intangible Heritage Embodied (Springer, 
2009). This volume, as its eponymous title indicates, considers Contested Cultural 
Heritage from the perspective of that which is erased, excluded, religiously laden, 
and politically fraught in the context of globalization today. Volume 4, forthcoming 
under the editorship of Dr. D. Fairchild Ruggles, explores Heritage Cities. 

As cultural heritage becomes increasingly (indeed, inexorably) significant across 
the world, the number of issues for critical analysis and, hopefully, mediation rises 
in tandem. The literature has exploded in size and scope as my introductory essay 
attempts to indicate. Projects are burgeoning. These vary dramatically in size and 
scope, encompassing academic studies conducted by individual scholars or research 
center teams (the latter may be housed at universities or be private entities), large 
governmental and inter-governmental initiatives, NGOs from small and single-site 
or single-country-focused to regional to mega institutions such as World Monuments 
Fund and Global Heritage Fund, supra-governmental agencies such as UNESCO, 
ICOMOS, and ICAHM, and self-starting grassroots organizations. The projects 
themselves range from theoretical to applied. They may be ethnographic appraisals 
of a particular heritage situation (such as how people living in a particular place 
perceive their relationship to the local historic past), development work (such as 
how to rehabilitate an ancient irrigation system), politically empowering (such as 
assisting a historically disenfranchised group to assert land rights), religiously medi- 
ating (the work of the Department of Landscape Architecture-University of Illinois 
at the Indian site of Champaner-Pavagadh comes to mind), touristic (such as the 
multi-nation Ruta Maya and Qhapaq Nan projects), and so on. Typically, every 
project is challenged by the inherently contested nature of cultural heritage. 

This volume, like the others in the series, is the product of a conference held 
at the University of Illinois, funded through the generosity of a number of campus 
sponsors, among which the Center for Global Studies is most especially thanked 



for its consistent support and encouragement since CHAMP’s founding in 2005. As 
with most academic conferences, not all speakers ultimately wrote up their papers 
for publication. To the presenters at the conference leading to the present volume, 
I offer my sincerest thanks for their patience during the production process. I trust 
they will be pleased with the final product. 

Urbana, Illinois Helaine Silverman 


1 Contested Cultural Heritage: A Selective Historiography .... 1 

Helaine Silverman 

2 The Stratigraphy of Forgetting: The Great Mosque 

of Cordoba and Its Contested Legacy 51 

D. Fairchild Ruggles 

3 Aestheticized Geographies of Conflict: The Politicization 
of Culture and the Culture of Politics in Belfast’s 

Mural Tradition 69 

Alexandra Hartnett 

4 Blood of Our Ancestors: Cultural Heritage Management 

in the Balkans 109 

Michael L. Galaty 

5 Re-imagining the National Past: Negotiating the Roles 
of Science, Religion, and History in Contemporary 

British Ghost Tourism 125 

Michele M. Hanks 

6 Collecting and Repatriating Egypt’s Past: Toward a New 

Nationalism 141 

Salima Ikram 

7 National Identity Interrupted: The Mutilation 
of the Parthenon Marbles and the Greek Claim 

for Repatriation 155 

Vasiliki Kynourgiopoulou 

8 Syrian National Museums: Regional Politics 

and the Imagined Community 171 

Kari A. Zobler 

9 Contestation from the Top: Fascism in the Realm 

of Culture and Italy’s Conception of the Past 193 

Alvaro Higueras 



10 Touring the Slave Route: Inaccurate Authenticities 

in Benin, West Africa 205 

Timothy R. Landry 

11 Carving the Nation: Zimbabwean Sculptors 

and the Contested Heritage of Aesthetics 233 

Lance L. Larkin 

12 Afterword: El Pilar and Maya Cultural Heritage: 

Reflections of a Cheerful Pessimist 261 

Anabel Ford 

Subject Index 267 


Anabel Ford Department of Anthropology, University of California, Santa 
Barbara, CA 93106, USA, 

Alexandra Hartnett Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago, 
Chicago, IL 60637, USA, 

Michael L. Galaty Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Millsaps College, 
Jackson, MS 39210, USA, 

Michele M. Hanks Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois, Urbana, 
IL 61801, USA, 

Alvaro Higueras Department of Arts and Humanities, American University of 
Rome, Rome 00195, Italy, alvarohig@ yahoo. co 

Salima Ikram Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology and 
Egyptology, The American University in Cairo, Cairo, Egypt, 

Vasiliki Kynourgiopoulou Italy Asst. Academic Dean, Cultural Experiences 
Abroad, University of New Haven, Rome, Italy, 
vicky.kynourgiopoulou @ 

Timothy R. Landry Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois, Urbana, 
IL 61801, USA, 

Lance L. Larkin Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 
61801, USA, 

D. Fairchild Ruggles Department of Landscape Architecture, University of 
Illinois, Champaign, IL 61820, USA, 

Helaine Silverman Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois, Urbana, 
IL 61801, USA, 

Kari A. Zobler Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 
61801, USA, 


Chapter 1 

Contested Cultural Heritage 
A Selective Historiography 

Helaine Silverman 

Although “contested cultural heritage” has not always been specified in these words, 
the concept has been cogently present for at least 25 years in anthropology, archae- 
ology, history, geography, architecture, urbanism, and tourism (to name the most 
obvious disciplines) and is now a framework driving much applied research in these 
fields internationally. This is because we live in an increasingly fraught world where 
religious, ethnic, national, political, and other groups manipulate (appropriate, use, 
misuse, exclude, erase) markers and manifestations of their own and others’ cultural 
heritage as a means for asserting, defending, or denying critical claims to power, 
land, legitimacy, and so forth. This introductory essay presents a selective histori- 
ography of contested cultural heritage as I perceive its development, illustrated by 
some of the better known cases of its instantiation and augmented by the contribu- 
tions to this volume. I emphasize the more tangible aspects of cultural heritage (a 
bias from my training as an archaeologist) [Note 1] and draw heavily from anthro- 
pological/archaeological literature where academic attention to the issues has been 
greatest and whose practitioners dominate the roster of authors herein. 

Shifting the Paradigm 

Attention to contested cultural heritage is, fundamentally, awareness of the construc- 
tion of identity and its strategic situationality and oppositional deployment — the 
knowledge that “self and society are not . . . given, as fully formed, fixed, and 
timeless, as either integrated selves or functionally consistent structures. Rather, 
self and society are always in production, in process. . .” (Bruner 1983a:2-3). This 
statement was revolutionary at the time it was made and came from the heart of 
cultural anthropology in a volume entitled Text, Play and Story: The Construction 
and Reconstruction of Self and Society (Bruner 1983b). Its most compelling exem- 
plification was Bruner and Gorfain’s (1983) analysis of the dialogic narration and 
paradoxes of Masada, Israel’s physically dramatic and ideologically sanctified site 

H. Silverman (El) 

Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801, USA 

H. Silverman (ed.), Contested Cultural Heritage, 

DOI 10.1007/978-l-4419-7305-4_l, © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 201 1 



H. Silverman 

of Jewish heroism and resistance. Bruner and Gorfain recognized the multivocal- 
ity of the Masada epic, identifying its competing political, moral, authoritative, and 
religious aspects. In so doing their study transcended a contribution to anthropolog- 
ical theory: in retrospect it can be seen as a pioneering recognition of heritage sites 
as sites of contestation [Note 2], 

“Masada” (Bruner and Gorfain 1983) was virtually contemporaneous with two 
full-scale ethnographies of contested cultural heritage, one about Greece and the 
other about Quebec. These are the earliest such studies I am able to identify. Like 
“Masada,” Herzfeld’s (1982) study of Greek national identity was explicit about the 
role of contested cultural heritage in the push and pull of nation building and its 
larger geopolitical context: 

In 1821 the Greeks arose in revolt against the rule of Turkey and declared themselves an 
independent nation. . . they proclaimed the resurrection of an ancient vision. . . That vision 
was Hellas. . . This unique nation-state would represent the ultimate achievement of the 
Hellenic ideal and, as such, would lead all Europe to the highest levels of culture yet known. 

Europeans in other lands. . . were not uniformly impressed by the modem Greeks’ claim 
to represent [Classic Greek culture]. By what token could the latter-day Greeks portray 
themselves as the true descendants of the ancient Hellenes. . . Were they still ... the same 
as the Greeks of old? . . . they were not . . . 

Greek scholars constructed cultural continuity in defense of their national identity. . . . 

. . . the idea of Greece — like any symbol — could carry a wide range of possible 
meanings. . . Such is the malleable material of which ideologies are made. 

. . . paradox. . . difficulties threatened the coherence of the national ideology . . .. 
(Herzfeld 1982:3-4, 6; emphasis in original) 

Handler (1985, 1988) studied Quebecois interest in their own French-origin 
cultural patrimony as opposed to the central discourse of Canadian national cul- 
ture. In Quebec, cultural patrimony became a matter of provincial, which is to say 
local, concern and was deeply imbricated in new understandings and practices that 
challenged historic, mainstream patterns. 

At the same time, Lowenthal (1985) published his more sweeping, influential, 
and transdisciplinary meditation on how the (Western) past has been understood, 
fashioned, and altered so as to become a usable, albeit “weighty” heritage. In The 
Past Is A Foreign Country Lowenthal illuminated how history, memory, and the 
physical remains of the past are employed to reveal the past and also how they enable 
creation of a past of our own liking — thus, a malleable past. He introduced concepts 
such as selective erosion, invention, and oblivion — the practice of which, on the 
ground, subsequently became demonstrated in almost countless studies including 
various in the present volume. Obviously, Lowenthal was not writing in a vacuum 
(as his extensive bibliography confirms), and here it is important to observe that 
he cited Hobsbawn’s (1983) renowned essay on invented traditions, a concept that 
has become tremendously significant in heritage studies, particularly concerning 
intangible practices and debates over authenticity (see especially Bruner 1994; see 
e.g., Churchill 2006). 

Archaeology participated in anthropology’s “cultural turn” [Note 3], and in 
1986 a veritable tsunami in archaeology was unleashed at a major international 
conference held in Southampton, UK — the first World Archaeological Congress 

1 Contested Cultural Heritage: A Selective Historiography 


(WAC) — whose agenda focused on critical awareness of the treatment of the past 
in the present, concern with stakeholder empowerment and social justice, and 
related political and theoretically linked matters (see Campion 1989; Cleere 1989; 
Gathercole and Lowenthal 1990; Layton 1989; Miller et al. 1989; Shennan 1989). 

[WAC] insisted on recognizing that science, far from being politically neutral, constitutes 
a value system linked to dominant social interests, and the idea of science “being open to 
all” is ultimately a belief about the way the world should be, rather than how it is. WAC 
made clear statements that archaeology had long served state interests in shoring up nation- 
alist identities and asserting territorial domains. At the same time, WAC put itself forward 
as a forum not merely for professional archaeologists and allied scientists, but for every- 
one interested in the past, with native people from underdeveloped countries specifically 
encouraged . . . Since 1986, WAC has constituted itself as a uniquely representative non- 
profit organization of worldwide archaeology that recognizes the historical and social role, 
and the political context, of archaeology, and the need to make archaeological studies rele- 
vant to the wider community. It especially seeks to debate and refute institutionalized views 
that serve the interests of a privileged few to the detriment of disenfranchised others. WAC 
explicitly values diversity against institutionalized mechanisms that marginalize the cultural 
heritage of indigenous peoples, minorities and the poor. . . . attention to local archaeolog- 
ical communities trying to protect archaeological sites, or indigenous groups protecting 
sacred sites from industrial encroachment or tourism development. . .. “value-committed 
archaeologies” ... or “engaged archaeology.” . . . archaeology carries in it a source of 
empowerment, not only in the generalized sense, as a means of knowledge production about 
the past, but more specifically as a means to grant time-depth and legitimation to individuals, 
groups or nations. . . . political commitment and ethical judgement COUNT in archaeology 
and constitute an important FOCUS of inquiry . . . interaction is taking place, accords are 
being struck and native voices are empowered to be involved in archaeological research. 
Community-based archaeology projects not only incorporate local knowledge, history, edu- 
cation and work schedules into research agendas, but the very objectives of archaeological 
research are now being set by local communities, as “value committed” archaeologists put 
themselves at the service of endangered ethnic minorities. In fact, this is the archaeology 
of the future. The discipline of archaeology is no longer the exclusive province of white 
European upper-class men, and there is no going back to a pre-WAC era of exclusionary, 
hierarchical and scientized knowledge that marginalizes the multivocal archaeology from 
the peripheries. The question of “who controls the past?” is no longer a conundrum because 
it must be generally conceded that there are many pasts and they will be known differently 
from many views. (Gero 2009, emphasis in original) 

WAC consolidated its philosophy and membership in 1990 at its second meeting, 
held in Venezuela (see especially Stone and Molyneaux 1994; Bond and Gilliam 
1994a). Here archaeologists explicitly took on the issues of power inherent in pro- 
fessional archaeological practice, societal norms, and governmental political policy, 
arguing that “social constructions of the past are crucial elements in the process 
of domination, subjugation, resistance and collusion. Representing the past and the 
way of life of populations is an expression and a source of power. These representa- 
tions may frame relationships of social inequality, and can be intimately related to 
structures of power and wealth. They contain ideological and hegemonic properties 
that represent historical and sectional interests” (Bond and Gilliam 1994b: 1). 

Although the United States Congress surely was not reading academic litera- 
ture, it is not coincidental that NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and 
Repatriation Act) was passed in the same year as the WAC-2 conference. The civil 


H. Silverman 

rights concerns that were mobilizing Native American communities and their non- 
indigenous allies were consilient with the kinds of issues motivating WAC activism 
worldwide (e.g., Hammil and Cruz 1989). Indigenous peoples of Canada, Australia, 
and elsewhere around the world were now vociferously insisting on physical and 
ideological control of — or least participation in decision-making about — their cul- 
tural heritage, from sequestered human remains to sites to exhibited artifacts 
(e.g., Mamani Condori 1989; Rakotoarisoa 1989; Richardson 1989) — indeed, to 
the representation of themselves in the everyday (see e.g., Michaels 1987). And 
they were questioning the exclusive validity of Western science itself (e.g., Echo- 
Hawk 2000). 

This assertion extended to the landscape itself whose occupation and use came 
to the fore as a prime battleground for contested claims between original inhabi- 
tants and more recent settlers, visitors, and overseers (e.g., Bender 1993; Bender 
and Winer 2001; Flood 1989; McNiven and Russell 2005; Smith 2001). In response 
to events on the ground, scholars were recognizing the landscape as socially con- 
structed and engaged (e.g., Ashmore and Knapp 1999; Corner 1999; Cosgrove 
1984; David and Wilson 2002; Duncan and Ley 1993; Hirsch and O’Hanlon 1995; 
Rotenberg 1995; Silverman 1990) — including landscape contestations in art (e.g., 
Cosgrove and Daniels 1988; McGill 1990) and as mapped (e.g., Bassett 1998; 
Cosgrove 1999; Edney 1990; Jackson 1989; Silverman 2002a; Wood 1992). Indeed, 
in 1992 “cultural landscape” became clearly acknowledged as heritage by UNESCO 
in the World Heritage Convention (, 
and in 2000 the European Landscape Convention was signed, recognizing cultural 
and historical landscapes in Europe (Scazzosi 2004). 

Museums — as the premier sites of representation — were drawn into the paradigm 
shift as well. Their watershed was the Smithsonian’s co-publication of Exhibiting 
Cultures. The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display (Karp and Lavine 1991) 
and Museums and Communities. The Politics of Public Culture (Karp et al. 1992). 
The book titles are self-explanatory. No longer were museums to be uncon- 
tested, authoritative spaces for the presentation and interpretation of dominant 
versions of history and culture. A new self-awareness among curators (certainly 
those trained in the social sciences) was leading to a new museology, informed 
by the same discourses rocking anthropology, archaeology, and allied fields. The 
changes can be seen in an extraordinarily prolific sequence of publications that 
cumulatively constitute the intellectual foundations of the contemporary field of 
museum studies [Note 4]. Within this arena, issues of contested cultural heritage 
have figured prominently, whether concerning the representation of African pre- 
history and the “ethnographic present” in white-dominated museums on and off 
the “Dark Continent” (e.g., Coombes 1994; Hart and Winter 2001; Schildkrout 
1991; Kreamer 2006; see also Hall 1994; Spiegel 1994) or how Americans view the 
West of lore (see Dubin 1999a; Wallach 1994) — to cite just two dramatic examples 
[Note 5]. 

There was, then, in the 1980s an explosion of new ideas about cultural heritage 
[Note 6]. Contestation of cultural heritage lay evident before the academic eye, ripe 
for intervention and interpretation. 

1 Contested Cultural Heritage: A Selective Historiography 


The Paradigm Realized 

A continuous stream of publications in the 1990s consolidated the Kuhnian 
paradigm shift toward a socially engaged, politically aware study of the past that 
regards heritage as contested, recognizes the role of power in the construction 
of history, focuses on the production of identity, emphasizes representation and 
performance, and preferentially analyzes formerly colonial states and societies 
and their subaltern populations. The 1990s also witnessed the creation of new 
journals dedicated in significant part to expositions within the paradigm, notably 
International Journal of Cultural Property (founded in 1992) and International 
Journal of Heritage Studies (founded in 1994). 

The shift in the heritage paradigm was particularly evident in Americanist schol- 
arship for the USA has seen its share of contestation as previously disenfranchised 
groups have pushed to have their voices heard in the story of America. Two dra- 
matic cases rocked the American archaeological world in the 1990s. They involved 
the serendipitous discovery of human remains and the resultant claims made by the 
descendant communities of historically abused minority groups to own and interpret 
the cultural heritage they argued belonged to them. Another example is Colonial 
Williamsburg, where the disenfranchised population was historically eliminated 
from the historical script. 

The first case was the conflict over the discovery of an African burial ground in 
lower Manhattan in 1991, located where a new federal office building was being 
constructed (see, e.g., Harrington 1993; McCarthy 1996). The African American 
community of New York City was galvanized by the discovery (as were many oth- 
ers since slavery was not widely known to have been practiced in northern cities). 
Both the United States Government Services Administration (GSA) and the original 
contract archaeology team showed insensitivity to the academic let alone immense 
emotional and cultural significance of the find. Indeed, excavation to remove the 
burials began without a research design, without communication with the vibrant 
African American community, and with no African American expert participation in 
the project. At the time the mayor of New York City was himself African American 
and he became officially involved. Eventually, the rapid extraction of burials was 
halted, the contract firm was fired, a new contract firm was hired, and careful exca- 
vation of the burials under a sound research program was begun in consultation with 
African American scholars from Howard University, the premier historically black 
educational institution of the USA. Notwithstanding the loss of data and ethical 
tribulations, important information about the African Burial Ground was recovered, 
the slave remains were reburied, and today a beautiful National Historic Landmark 
stands as a memorial on this sacred ground. 

The problem of contested heritage surrounding the African Burial Ground was 
serious. The GSA simply did not recognize the site as cultural heritage; the original 
contract archaeology firm was similarly driven by economics and efficiency. But 
legitimate stakeholder claims to their cultural heritage triumphed when not just the 
field project but also the analysis and interpretation were conducted by qualified 
scholars of the descendant community (see, e.g., Blakey 1998). 


H. Silverman 

The second case concerned the find now known as Kennewick Man. Discovered 
in 1996 along the Columbia River in Washington state, controversy over the cul- 
tural affiliation of the skull (“Caucasian” or Native American Indian but without 
specific tribal origin; see Owsley and Jantz 2002) led to more than a decade of legal 
wrangling between archaeologists wanting to study it for its scientific information 
and Native American groups (supported by many other archaeologists) arguing that 
in their worldview no issue of ancestral migration into the continent was involved 
since their cosmology stated they had always been on the land (for a precise sum- 
mary of the case, see Burke et al. 2008). Whose cultural heritage Kennewick Man 
was, and who had the moral and legal right to interpret and dispose of the “Ancient 
One,” became enveloped in the recently passed NAGPRA law (see, e.g., Mihesuah 
2000), the burst of dialogue between Native American peoples and archaeologists 
(a handful of whom were themselves Native American) (Bray 2001; Swidler et al. 
1997; Watkins 2000; and the 1990s-dominated bibliographies in the previous refer- 
ences; the “Working Together” column in the 1990s SAA Bulletin , published by the 
Society for American Archaeology), and the development of a professional code of 
ethics by the Society for American Archaeology (Lynott and Wylie 1995). 

We can also consider the ramifications of the paradigm at Colonial Williamsburg, 
one of the country’s most visited historic places, where the sanitized white rep- 
resentation of pre-Revolutionary War- and Revolutionary War-era Virginia was 
challenged because the narrative and performance excluded the African slaves who 
had serviced the fine Georgian homes 200 years earlier. Colonial Williamsburg, 
a private, (self-professed) patriotic organization administering America’s premier 
remaining colonial town, had to come to grips with the nation’s shameful past. 
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation implemented, with difficulty, new histori- 
cal scripts acknowledging class distinctions and, especially, the existence of slavery 
(Handler and Gable 1997). But the “Other Half’ optional tour through Colonial 
Williamsburg was not without its own contestation as tourists (black and white) 
accepted and rejected the facts and enactments put before them (Handler and 
Gable 1997). Most notorious was the controversy that arose in 1999 when Colonial 
Williamsburg innovated a slave auction, as would have happened in its era. 

Enslaving Virginia weaves the shameful history of human bondage into the fabric of story- 
telling at Williamsburg, underscoring a Revolution fought for the liberty of some, but not 
all. This edgy new representation of Colonial life casts costumed actors as slave leaders and 
slave owners while paying tourists find themselves in the roles of slaves. 

The reenactments are so realistic that some audience members have attacked the white 
actors in the slave patrol, who have had to fight to keep their decorative muskets. And when 
some early performances drove young children to tears, Williamsburg added “debriefing” 
sessions afterward to help calm them. 

One visitor even attempted to lead his own revolt against the slave handlers. “There are 
only three of them and a hundred of us!,” he yelled. The actors had to step out of character 
to restrain him. 

At an attraction that historically has appealed almost exclusively to whites, the skits have 
stoked particularly strong emotions among African Americans, some of whom welcome 
frank discussion of a topic often given short shrift, even as they and others are discom- 
fited by repeated images of subjugation. Several black actors have refused to portray slaves 
because they find it demeaning and emotionally wrenching. (Eggen 1999: Al) 

1 Contested Cultural Heritage: A Selective Historiography 


Writing before Handler and Gable (1997) published their study of Colonial 
Williamsburg, Mondale (1994:17) generalized that “the intentionally preserved past 
(under the sponsorship of private and public agencies) is much more likely to 
conserve history as an amenity and an objet d’art, as quaintspace, than as an ele- 
mental, almost desperate struggle for shared meaning.” His statement was prescient 
in its correct characterization of Colonial Williamsburg. And it anticipated current 
debates about the impacts of inscribing sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, a 
topic requiring separate treatment. 

Recovering an excluded past may be as difficult as including it. This is what 
we saw above concerning the controversy over representing slavery (and see Dann 
and Seaton 2002). Tunbridge and Ashworth addressed this issue by introducing the 
important concept of “dissonant heritage”: “the heritage creation process is contro- 
versial in a number of respects. . ..The idea of dissonance . . . keeps at the forefront 
the ideas of discrepancy and incongruity. Dissonance in heritage involves a discor- 
dance or lack of agreement and consistency. . . [Also, the concept implies] a state of 
psychic tension caused by the simultaneous holding of mutually inconsistent atti- 
tudes or the existence of a lack of consonance between attitudes and behaviour. . . 
[Dissonance] is intrinsic to the nature of heritage. . . At its simplest, all heritage is 
someone’s heritage and therefore logically not someone else’s” (1996:20-21) (see 
also Meskell 2002:566). 

Mondale (1994) takes a broad view on the issue of the “problematic past” and 
its conservation in the sense of remembrance, inclusion, and commemoration. He 
indicates the conundrums of “what to remember and what to forget. Selecting par- 
ticular pasts to conserve is necessarily a matter of continuous negotiations among 
all interested parties” (Mondale 1994: 15). Bruner ( 1996) provides us with a particu- 
larly compelling example from Ghana where the expectations of African American 
tourists concerning slave history at its source differ from Ghanaians’ interest in the 
larger sweep of their history in which the dungeons of Elmina Castle (where slaves 
were held prior to their forced embarkation to the New World) played just one part. 
African American cultural heritage necessarily is different from Ghanaian and what 
emerges from the engagement are conflicting interpretations, contested claims of 
narrative ownership, and administratively enforced differentiation of patterns of site 
usage. Elmina Castle has multiple stakeholders and the process of history building 
is ongoing. 

Indeed, cultural heritage may be very painful or troublesome, depending on the 
group you belong to, resulting in contestation of history and heritage. Lennon and 
Foley’s (2000:46-65) treatment of the Nazi death camps in Poland exemplifies this: 
Jewish pain, enduring Polish anti-semitism. We could readily consider the struggle 
between multiple parties over Ground Zero in New York City as another example. 
Sather- Wag staff (2009) cogently presents its transformation into a tourist attrac- 
tion, while Meskell (2002) anticipates its transformation into a heritage site; these 
processes are occurring as economic developers and various municipal, state, and 
national authorities seek to impose their differing visions on this sacralized terrain. 

In their introduction to The Excluded Past, MacKenzie and Stone (1994:1) are 
concerned with “the struggles that take place between subordinated groups who 

H. Silverman 

seek access to, and a re-evaluation of, their past, and those who wish to deny them 
this goal” and why exclusion and omission happen. Forces of discriminatory ideol- 
ogy, power, social fabric, custom, and religious dogma may be responsible, among 
other factors. Typically, exclusion is directed at minority groups in a society. But an 
indigenous majority may be similarly dispossessed as was the case, for instance, in 
Zimbabwe (Pwiti and Ndoro 1999; see chapter by Larkin). 

At its worst the exclusion of heritage leads to violence — violence toward cultural 
heritage that in the act of destruction of inanimate objects implicates loss of human 
life. Sadly, too many examples can be given, for example, the 1992 destruction 
of the Babri Masjid (mosque) in Ayodhya, India, by Hindu militants, which pro- 
voked riots across the subcontinent in which more than 2,000 people were killed. 
Hindus claimed that the mosque (built in 1528) was constructed over the temple site 
where Lord Rama was born. The Muslim destruction of the Hindu shrine (real or 
conceived) in 1528 assumed extraordinary significance four and half centuries later 
when fueled by particular contingencies (see discussion in Johnson-Roehr 2008; see 
also Dalrymple 2005; compare to the current struggle over Spain’s Great Mosque of 
Cordoba: see Ruggles in this volume). Within the literature Bernbeck and Pollock’s 
1996 paper on the Ayodhya tragedy particularly interests me because their argument 
is phrased very much in terms of the archaeological literature of the time, with an 
emphasis on the linkages between archaeology, ethnicity, nationalism, and identity 
(see, e.g., Arnold 1990; Chapman 1994; Kohl and Fawcett 1995; Rowlands 1994; 
Schmidt and Patterson 1995; Shennan 1989; Smith 1989; also see Jones 1997, which 
was published the next year, and Meskell 1998, which was published the year after). 

In addition to Ayodhya (Lai 2001; Sharma 2001), mention can be made of the 
Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 (Jansen 2005 and Knapp; Antoniadou 1998) and 
the Balkans War in 1991-1995 (Barakat et al. 2001; Chapman 1994; Sulc 2001), 
each replete with massive destruction of the cultural monuments and materials as 
well as human lives. It is small wonder that archaeologists remain engaged with 
contested heritage (see especially Golden 2004). 

A different kind of violence in the contestation of cultural heritage has occurred 
in Britain, leading to a novel proposal by archaeologist Barbara Bender (1998) 
that is intellectually grounded in the paradigm shift I have been discussing. In 
1985 (see Chippendale 1986) and again in 1988, there were violent clashes at 
Stonehenge (England’s premier World Heritage Site) between New Age Druid 
cultists (accompanied by assorted others) and the site-protecting police. Since the 
mid-1970s “wierdos” (sic: Bender 1998:127) had been holding a Free Festival at 
Stonehenge, eventually attracting as many as 50,000 people. When police acted to 
evict these appropriators so as to protect the site from damage and, in Bender’s 
opinion, acting on behalf of “English Heritage and the parts of the Establishment to 
promote a socially empty view of the past in line with modern conservative sensi- 
bilities” (1998:131), world heritage came into conflict — not just contestation over 
meaning — with a new group of stakeholders holding their own, non-archaeological, 
non- scientific interpretation of the great monument. Bender’s remarkable mitiga- 
tion of the struggle over use of the site was to create a “Stonehenge Belongs To 
You And Me” mobile exhibition in consultation with a group of free festivalers and 

1 Contested Cultural Heritage: A Selective Historiography 


travelers (1998:149). Her goal was to legitimize the different voices in English her- 
itage, rather than conceding all authority to English Heritage itself. Today there is 
negotiated access to the site (Darvill 2007; Stone 2008). 

Amidst the many archaeological case studies of contested cultural heritage being 
produced in the 1990s, there were also important contributions from cultural anthro- 
pology (including the study by Handler and Gable discussed above). Several of 
Edward Bruner’s studies are particularly noteworthy. In addition to Elmina Castle 
discussed above (Bruner 1996), Bruner (1993) studied New Salem, Illinois, where 
Abraham Lincoln lived for 6 years (1831-1837) as a young man, long before the 
apotheosis of the Civil War. Illinoisans claim New Salem as the place that trans- 
formed Lincoln into the figure he became as an adult — apocryphal New Salem is 
folded into the “Lincoln legend.” Scholars argue that the tourist-impelled interpreta- 
tion of Lincoln in the town is greatly exaggerated and inaccurate. Thus, New Salem 
is a contested site where history and popular interpretation of Abraham Lincoln 

Bruner’s (Bruner and Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 1994) study of Maasai tourism in 
Kenya interrogates another kind of contested heritage — that desired by tourists who 
come to Mayers Ranch to see the enactment of “a colonial drama of the savage 
pastoral Maasai and the genteel British” and participate in a simulacrum of former 
colonial privilege. The Maasai performers who participate in the show manipulate 
social relationships with their white patrons and tourists so as to use their traditions 
to their own advantage, notably to earn money with which to live and propagate a 
Maasai way of life out of the view of tourists and their handlers. 

Michael Herzfeld’s (1991) influential study of the contest for ownership and 
interpretation of the past on Crete is fascinating because the actors in the conflict 
are all Cretan, consisting of local people in a formerly Venetian town (Rethemnos) 
pitted against the bureaucracy in charge of historic preservation. At issue is local, 
lived heritage (“social time”) versus the officially privileged architectural heritage of 
the thirteenth through seventeenth centuries (“monumental time”), and the disputed 
ownership of history. 

Michel-Rolph Trouillot has provided another holistic theoretical framework for 
understanding how power operates in the production and documentation of history. 
In so doing he explained the dynamics of heritage contestation: 

. . . historical production occurs in many sites. But the relative weight of these sites varies 
with context. . . History is always produced in a specific historical context. (1995:22) . . . 
History as a social process involves people in three distinct capacities: 1 ) as agents or occu- 
pants of structural positions; 2) as actors in constant interface with a context; and 3) as 
subjects, that is, as voices aware of their vocality (1995:23) . . . differential exercise of power 
. . .makes some narratives possible and silences others (1995:25) . . . Power is constitutive 
of the story . . . power itself works together with history (1995:28) . . . facts are not created 
equal: the[ir] production ... is always also the creation of silences. (1995:29) (emphasis in 
the original) 

We clearly see these factors at work in the contributions to this volume (see 


H. Silverman 

Apprehending Contested Heritage in the New Millennium 

The new millennium is seeing an ever growing and diversifying interest in the field 
of heritage studies. This is readily apparent in a rich crop of authored and edited 
volumes and in the need of the field for more topical publication venues, thus 
generating Public Archaeology (founded in 2000), Journal of Social Archaeology 
(founded in 2001), CRM: The Journal of Heritage Stewardship (founded in 2003), 
Archaeologies. Journal of the World Archaeological Congress (founded in 2005), 
and Heritage Management (founded in 2008). 

Several principal focuses have emerged dominant amidst the suite of issues I have 
identified above in my survey of the literature from the previous decades. There is 
significant overlap and cross-cutting in my categories below, which certainly can 
be reconfigured differently, but all instantiate contestation of heritage — inevitable 
because of heritage’s intimate association with identity in its multiple domains 
of performance. Indeed, virtually the entire contents of the journal Archaeologies 
(see above) are devoted to critical contestations. As Ashworth et al. (2007:2, 3) 
recognize, “The inevitable outcome is that conflicts of interest are an inseparable 
accompaniment to heritage as practice and process. . . open to constant revision and 
change and [heritage] is also both a source and a repercussion of social conflict.” 

Based on the larger field of heritage scholarship concerning or invoking contes- 
tation, I would suggest the following as some of the major arenas of investigation 
evident in the new literature: (1) manufacture, marketing and consumption of her- 
itage; (2) foreign ownership of trafficked illegal antiquities from source countries; 
(3) public outreach by heritage personnel (archaeologists, historians, museums, etc.) 
to previously disenfranchised stakeholder groups; (4) the concept of “value” includ- 
ing questions about UNESCO’s actions in the work of cultural heritage; (5) local 
and national deployments of cultural heritage in a global world; (6) heritage and 
politics; (7) intangible heritage; (8) intersections of heritage with human and cul- 
tural rights (this issue is expressly addressed in Silverman and Ruggles 2007a [see 
also Ruggles and Silverman 2009b] and will not be further considered here, being a 
topic exceeding the scope of the volume at hand; this particular field is likely going 
to explode in importance in coming years [Note 7]). 

Manufacture, Marketing, and Consumption of Heritage 

Significantly increased world tourism has led to the outright marketing of major 
historic and archaeological sites by their national and international promoters, bring- 
ing more issues of consumption and contestation of heritage into play. Rowan and 
Baram’s (2004) edited volume focuses on marketing heritage and consuming the 
past. I note two chapters in particular concerning the outright promotion of archae- 
ological sites for the purpose of attracting tourist revenue. Ardren (2004) observes 
that the so-called Maya Riviera is crowded with Maya-themed hotels but the Maya 
people staffing the mass tourism industry receive poor wages and work in less than 
ideal conditions. And insofar as actual native Maya communities are concerned, 

1 Contested Cultural Heritage: A Selective Historiography 


there is little economic benefit from the massive ancient heritage industry. Addison 
(2004) demonstrates that road signage in Jordan, a Moslem country rich in Islamic 
monuments, effaces that heritage from the tourist landscape by directing travelers 
almost exclusively to Christian sites. “It is not that the [Islamic] sites are unsigned. 
Every one of the Islamic holy sites, even in the most remote villages, is signed, 
but the signs are never visible from the heavily traveled tourist roads” (Addison 
2004:238). Not only does the Jordanian heritage bureaucracy invest most heavily 
in Christian sites, favoring them over Islamic sites in terms of preservation, but 
also “Islamic heritage — history, religion, pilgrimage and Muslims themselves — 
are deliberately obscured from Western visitors” (Addison 2004:245). Addison 
believes that this Jordanian policy was influenced by the “eagerly awaited influx 
of millennium-minded Christian tourists” expected to appear in the year 2000. For 
this reason (among others), Jordan deliberately effaced its own national identity 
“and in particular its Islamic heritage” (Addison 2004:246). Of course, as Addison 
points out, the year 2000 was immediately followed by the September 1 1 attack and 
the second Palestinian intifada in 2001. Tourism to Jordan plunged. In response, 
“tourists must be courted into a landscape as free as possible of any hint of threat or 
discomfort. . . the Hashemite regime in particular has worked overtime to configure 
itself as a secular, Western-identified state” (Addison 2004:246). 

AlSayyad’s (2001) Consuming Tradition, Manufacturing Heritage. Global 
Norms and Urban Forms in the Age of Tourism is an important contribution identi- 
fying the commodification of traditional and historic environments for the purpose 
of tourism under the global regime. “[N]ations, regions and cities have utilized 
and exploited vernacular built heritage to attract international investors at a time 
of ever-tightening global economic competition. . . the tourist industry has intro- 
duced new paradigms of the vernacular and/or traditional, based on the production 
of entire communities and social spaces that cater almost exclusively to the ‘other’ ” 
(AlSayyad 2001 :vii). 

Additional studies substantiate AlSayyad’s statement. Shepherd (2009), for 
instance, gives multiple examples from China — for instance the newly renamed 
town of Shangri-La in northern Yunnan Province, which directly alludes to James 
Hilton’s utopia. Meskell (2005) critiques the performance of ancient Egypt at the 
Pharaonic Village in Cairo. I have noted the Mochica Village that has been cre- 
ated on the grounds of the Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum in Lambayeque, Peru 
(Silverman 2005). Magnoni et al. (2007) demonstrate the enfolding of the ancient 
Maya landscape with the contemporary heterogeneous Maya in the production — 
by indigenous peoples as well as national tourism offices and the economic forces 
of globalization — of El Mundo Maya for the Ruta Maya tourist circuit (discussed 
below) (see also Ford, this volume) [Note 8]. Mortensen (2009) uses the phrase 
“creating Copan” to express the effort of the tourism “industry” ( sensu strictu ) to 
manufacture a tourist product in the context of a global commodity chain linking 
“the flows of people, technology, goods, capital and services between countries and 
regions” (Mortensen 2009:180). 

Kelli Ann Costa (2004) has dealt with the organization of tourism and presen- 
tation of historic sites in Ireland. Her follow-up book, Coach Fellas (Costa 2009), 


H. Silverman 

specifically considers Irish tour bus drivers who simultaneously perform as guides 
and are the crucial element in branding “people and place” as distinctively and 
authentically Irish. However, as she demonstrates, that vision of heritage contrasts 
with realities of contemporary Irish economic development. 

Philip Duke’s (2007) monographic study of tourism on Crete is especially inter- 
esting for its detailed observations of which archaeological sites are visited, what 
their condition is, if they are managed, and how foreign tourists encounter the 
Minoan past. As with Herzfeld’s (1991) study of the more recent Venetian period 
Cretan past, locals are not sufficiently consulted in issues pertaining to the cultural 
heritage. Duke laments that “locals must continuously contest their access to the past 
of their own island, a past that is largely defined by academics, government bureau- 
crats, and the tourist industry” (2007:62). As interesting is Duke’s observation that 
the larger — in terms of tourist numbers — draw of Crete is not its prehistory but its 
magnificent beaches. Duke cites a study by two tourism specialists who conducted 
an economic analysis in 2005 in which they analyzed what would make Crete’s 
two most important archaeological attractions — Knossos and the Iraklio Museum — 
more appealing to tourists, since archaeological sites were not being sufficiently 
exploited as a resource. Their study advocated provision of amenities at the sites, 
“such as restaurants and audiovisual equipment.” Duke criticizes their study for 
emphasizing “the means of delivery rather than the contents of the message itself,” 
in other words, “the past has been coopted by the tourist industry” (2007:64). 

Kreutzer’s (2006) analysis of the economics of archaeological heritage manage- 
ment brings into focus the contest between archaeologists and developers working 
with income-seeking national governments. This is an issue familiar to Andeanists, 
for at various times in the past decade or so plans have been floated in Peru to pri- 
vatize the more spectacular components of this country’s remarkable precolumbian 
landscape. In Cuzco such plans have sometimes prompted mass protests. I have 
written about the resentment in Cuzco concerning entrance fees at particular mon- 
uments of the official tourist circuit, which inhibit or dissuade locals from enjoying 
their own cultural heritage, and the problem of “museumification,” which generates 
an ongoing struggle between residents, municipal authorities, the private sector, and 
the global tourism industry (Silverman 2006a). Kreutzer recognizes the key issue: 
“The economics of privatisation policies threaten to disenfranchise the public from 
its own past” (2006:53). Appadurai takes a more general approach to the economics 
of the past: “The past is a scarce resource because its construction is subject to 
cultural as well as material constraints” (2007:48). He suggests that the economy 
governing the production of the past be examined. 

A promising strategy for the future relationship between economics and cul- 
tural heritage was presented by Jeff Morgan, founder of the Global Heritage Fund 
(GHF), in his interview with Brian Williams on Fox News on September 28, 2009 as 
part of the channel’s G20 meeting coverage [Note 9]. GHF works through partner- 
ships with foreign governments and private entities (such as businesses, individual 
entrepreneurs, NGOs). Over the past 7 years that GHF has been in existence (it was 
founded by Mr. Morgan in 2002), it has invested $15 million in projects; my under- 
standing is that these monies have been matched in the destination countries. In the 

1 Contested Cultural Heritage: A Selective Historiography 


interview Mr. Morgan addressed the potential for cultural tourism to help develop- 
ing countries, since making sites accessible necessarily involves development such 
as road building and other infrastructural improvements of the kind governments are 
expected to provide. Mr. Morgan argued that investment in showcase archaeological 
sites can help people living in poor countries (where individual income is “$2/day”) 
by boosting those countries’ economies through cultural tourism to the sites. For 
instance, he noted that Guatemala receives $400 million/year from Tikal. (It would 
be interesting to know what Guatemala does with that money.) Mr. Morgan advo- 
cates capacity building of governments and local communities. He is hopeful that 
GHF “can elevate the global crisis of our endangered heritage, and offer positive 
solutions for preservation and community development.” The former goal is obvi- 
ous: stop looting, stop uncontrolled development that destroys archaeological sites, 
stop destruction of the environment in which the targeted site is located. The latter 
goal is the one with which archaeologists, especially, have been concerned within 
the framework of “public outreach” as I discuss below. Most striking is the inclu- 
sion of cultural heritage preservation, as promoted by GHF, in the framework of 
the G20’s global economic concerns and policies. This is dramatic testimony not 
just to the extraordinary power-brokering ability of Mr. Morgan and GHF’s already 
impressive track record, but to the truly global significance of the marketing and 
consumption of cultural heritage — i.e., tourism — ideally with concomitant positive 
social, economic, and political development. But therein lies the proverbial rub for 
it is not a given that all domains will perceive widely shared positive results. Such 
outcomes must be specifically programmed. 

Illegal Antiquities, Ownership, and Nationalism 

Archaeologists have been concerned with looting and its resultant trafficking in 
illegal antiquities for quite some time. Following passage of UNESCO’s 1970 
“Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export 
and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property,” the Journal of Field Archaeology 
pioneered, in its very first issue in 1974, a regular feature column called “The 
Antiquities Market. News and Commentary on the Illicit Traffic in Antiquities.” The 
goal of this section was stated to be “the proper recovery and the protection of antiq- 
uities.” But at this time concern with looting and trafficking was largely academic 
and abstract: for archaeologists the pathology was the loss of context with which 
to reconstruct ancient civilizations; for UNESCO the issue was glibly glossed as 
“universally recognized” “respect” for the cultural heritage of “all nations” as well 
as nations respecting their own cultural heritage as a “basic element [of] national 
culture.” Deeper analysis was missing on the role of certain material culture in the 
performance and reproduction of identity within societies and in the construction of 

Particularly with the Native American Indian empowerment movement in the 
USA, ultimately culminating in NAGPRA in 1990, interest in illegal antiquities 
expanded to encompass the role of ethnographic as well as ancient material culture 


H. Silverman 

in the societies from which it was being removed. The Ethics of Collecting Cultural 
Property (Messenger 1989) was a state-on-the-art volume reflecting the broadened 
concerns of the time: Whose culture? Whose property? In a more recent volume, 
Brown (2003) has been explicit about the contestation of cultural heritage inherent 
in too many dealings between indigenous peoples/communities and the empowered 
establishment, across the realms of intellectual property rights, intangible heritage, 
and land. Hollowell (2009) presents a highly nuanced discussion of legal looting for 
in her case study there is a contestation of cultural heritage in the mind of every 
Native person on St. Lawrence Island who chooses to dig on community land so as 
to recover artifacts that can be sold to art dealers. “Diggers often felt emotionally 
torn between selling a unique object and wanting it to stay on the island. ... In spite 
of their alienability, artifacts remained important cultural symbols for St. Lawrence 
Islanders” (Hollowell 2009:225). 

It is not just “peoples” who seek the return of and/or control over their own 
cultural heritage. Countries — understood as those entities seated at the United 
Nations — increasingly in this decade are seeking the repatriation of particular 
objects. These countries are usually in the developing world, but not always (for 
instance Greece — see below — is a member of the European Union). We should be 
interested in why countries want to exercise their “right to those cultural proper- 
ties which form an integral part of their cultural heritage and identity (i.e., their 
‘national patrimony’)” (Warren 1989:8) and how those objects or cultural properties 
are manipulated in discourse and actuality. 

Greece’s dispute is only one of various involving source countries in the context 
of nationalism, tourism, and a coveted stake on the world stage (Greenfield 2007). 
Egypt seeks the return of the Bust of Nefertiti from the Berlin Museum and the 
Rosetta Stone from the British Museum, iconic objects that are huge tourist draws to 
their respective museums (see discussion in chapter by Ikram); indeed, in October 
2009 Egypt announced it had cut all cooperation with France’s Louvre Museum 
until it secures the return of its Pharaonic materials housed there. Nigeria wants to 
repatriate the Benin bronzes from the British Museum (Greenfield 2007:124-128; 
see also Coombes 1994). Of particular interest are the series of Web articles by Dr. 
Kwame-Opoku (e.g., 2008) in which he argues, “How do a people remember their 
history when the records have been stolen by another State? The human rights of the 
African peoples. . . are being violated by this persistent and defiant refusal to return 
cultural objects [that] were not produced by the Europeans and Americans and were 
not meant for their use. Such a refusal also violates the freedom of religion in so far 
as many of the stolen African objects, for instance . . . the Benin altars . . . are neces- 
sary for the traditional practice of beliefs. . . Most of these objects should have been 
returned when the African countries gained Independence in the 1960s. The refusal 
to return the objects relating to power and culture is a denial of the right to self- 
determination.” Peru is still embroiled in legal wrangling with Yale University over 
the repatriation of Hiram Bingham’s collections from Machu Picchu, Peru’s most 
famous archaeological site (Lubow 2007 inter alia). Eliane Karp-Toledo (2008), 
wife of Peru’s former president, Alejandro Toledo, wrote in an Op-Ed piece for The 
New York Times, “I fail to understand the rationale for Yale to have any historical 

1 Contested Cultural Heritage: A Selective Historiography 


claim to the artifacts. . . .The agreement reflects a colonial way of thinking ... I won- 
der if it is pure coincidence that Yale delayed negotiations with Toledo, Peru’s first 
elected indigenous president, until Peru had a new leader [Alan Garcia, the current 
president] who is frankly hostile to indigenous matters. Why is it so hard for Yale 
to let go of these collections. . . Yale must finally return the artifacts that symbolize 
Peru’s great heritage.” Inca heritage and the precolumbian past have been funda- 
mental in the construction of the imagined community called the Peruvian nation 
(e.g., Silverman 1999, 2002b). And the list goes on. 

The massive looting of the Iraq National Museum in April 2003 is widely 
acknowledged to have been undertaken for profit rather than symbolic cultural era- 
sure (Brodie 2006; Polk and Schuster 2005; Rothfield 2009; Stone and Bajjaly 2008 
inter alia; see the more complex argument by Starzmann 2008), nor was looting 
restricted to the museum (see Rothfield 2008). Nationalism, however, came into play 
with the (quasi) reopening of the museum in Baghdad in 2009, a tangible effort to 
reforge the nation in this country with a long history of implication of archaeology in 
nation building (see Bernhardsson 2005 for an excellent survey). As reported widely 
in the international press, the reopening was controversial within Iraq with various 
factions (politicians, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Tourism, Shia and Sunni fun- 
damentalists) differing on whether the move was premature, whether the museum 
had enough security, and if pre-Islamic materials should be exhibited. Nuri al-Maliki 
and senior officials were widely quoted as saying that they wished to demonstrate 
that the capital was secure and normal life was returning. 

Indeed, antiquities need not be mobile for them to be removed from context — 
what looting and trafficking do. Violence to the archaeological record reached a 
culmination with the complete destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban 
in Afghanistan in 2001, which was televised and condemned globally. As a warring 
party and de facto government, the Taliban contravened the 1954 Hague Convention, 
which seeks to protect monuments in times of violent conflict. This tangible and 
symbolic act was the most dramatic contestation of cultural heritage yet seen, for 
it simply denied and erased a block of time (everything pre-Islamic) as heritage at 
all. The Taliban asserted ownership over that cultural heritage, which it denied as 
heritage, and the right to dispose of it. Taking place in a country without a descen- 
dant community (there are no Buddhists in Afghanistan), the destruction also was a 
contestation of the right of the international community — including UNESCO — to 
intervene in foreign soil and to assert humankind’s ownership of the world’s cul- 
tural heritage, defined universally, but, of course, from a Western perspective (see 
Meskell 2002:564). 

Public Outreach 

One of the most dramatic changes in the heritage field has been in the area of public 
outreach, a catch-all term I will use here to encompass a range of practices such as 
interpretation, educational dissemination, civic engagement, community develop- 
ment projects — basically, everything that would fall within the purview of applied 


H. Silverman 

anthropology. The clearest evidence of the change can be seen in a story told by 
Paul Shackel about an old, mud-coated sign, dating to the mid-1970s, that he found 
on the grounds of Harpers Ferry National Park: “Yes — we are archaeologists. Yes — 
we are doing archaeology. Please do not disturb us.” (Shackel 2002:157). No longer 
does that attitude obtain. 

Public outreach is manifested in sensitivity to stakeholders, whether they are 
a descendant community or non-related neighbors living in proximity to some- 
thing that has been identified as “heritage” (on the latter, see Atalay 2007 for 
an especially interesting study). That label of “heritage” may spring from what 
Smith (2006) has called “authorized heritage discourse” (top-down), or the asser- 
tion of heritage may be locally generated (bottom-up). Public outreach is a decision 
by authorities (be they archaeologists or others) to relinquish exclusive con- 
trol of the past and to transcend the purely academic or self-serving results of 

Although still not widely enough accepted let alone enacted (see, e.g., 
McManamon 2000), this new model of present-ing the past surged into the main- 
stream of heritage practice over the course of the 1 990s and into the current century 
(see, e.g., Lynott and Wylie 1994; Watkins et al. 2000; Little 2002; Derry and Malloy 
2003; Shackel and Chambers 2004; Silverman 2006b; Little and Shackel 2007). 
Smith and Wobst (2005:6) write, “Traditionally, archaeology has been done ‘on’ not 
‘by,’ ‘for,’ or ‘with’ Indigenous peoples. . . . these groups are in disadvantaged posi- 
tions in comparison to the dominant populations. Especially in developing countries, 
they are those people whose voices are the least likely to be heard.” 

A significant amount of applied research has been conducted by Australians 
“on” and more recently “with” the Aboriginal people of this continent. The schol- 
ars involved are deeply committed to assisting and enabling the Aboriginals to 
defend their land rights and customs in what has been a centuries-long contesta- 
tion of indigenous culture versus a hostile dominant Anglo society. Flood (1989) 
provides a succinct summary of the development of cultural heritage legislation 
through the beginning of meaningful collaborations between white scholars and 
Aboriginal stakeholders. Yet the secondary title of her paper — “the development of 
cultural resource management in Australia” — is markedly different in its abstrac- 
tion (one might say “objectification”) from the wording chosen in more recent 
works. Lilley and Williams (2005) are open about the skepticism and open hostility 
of Aboriginal peoples toward archaeology and anthropology. They recognize that 
Aboriginals may perceive complicity in the study of their past in perpetuating colo- 
nial subjugation and that the “fight by non-Indigenous people against racism and 
human rights abuses is a form of paternalism” (Lilley and Williams 2005:228). They 
advocate “mutuality in a difficult postcolonial milieu” (2005:230): “equitable and 
mutually beneficial working relationships between archaeologists and Indigenous 
people, and on that basis help . . . advance the development of a tolerant, just, and 
open society. . .recognize . . . the need of all parties (. . . ‘stakeholders’) to come to 
grips with the past so they can make sense of the present and head more confidently 
into the future” (2005:234). 

1 Contested Cultural Heritage: A Selective Historiography 


McNiven and Russell take the stakeholder argument one step further in a position 
that bores deepest into the uncomfortable contestation of cultural heritage between 
its cultural affiliates and (“good guy”) non-affiliate researchers. They write, 

We fundamentally disagree with the stakeholder paradigm and interest-group model. 
Indigenous peoples are not mere stakeholders in their heritage — they own that heritage 
and have the right to fully control if and how research is undertaken on that heritage. . .. 

As such, they may wish (or not wish, as the case may be) to have non-Aboriginal guests 
research their cultural sites on their own terms and conditions. . . . The stakeholder model 
has appeal among many archaeologists and cultural heritage managers because it facilitates 
management of archaeological sites and associated conflicts over how such sites should be 
treated. Under the guise of democratization of the management process, the entire owner- 
ship issue is sidestepped and Indigenous peoples are reduced to mere participants in the 
management of Indigenous sites. (2005:236, emphasis added) 

It is not just Indigenous/ Aboriginal people who have been disenfranchised. In 
the USA, African Americans and other minorities have been poorly served in the 
national interpretation of the past, until recently. Recent examples of empowering 
outreach toward contested cultural heritage in the context of disenfranchised people 
include Mullins’ (2004, 2007) applied archaeology project in Indianapolis, under- 
taken at the behest of the stakeholders themselves, that has reclaimed a rich but 
invisible African American history in a blighted neighborhood (see also Jackson 
2009). James Wescoat (2007), a geographer and landscape scholar, describes a 
major project that has been mitigating Hindu-Muslim tension in a contested 
shrine at Champaner-Pavagadh in Gujarat, India — ground zero in 2002 of violent 
conflict — through a clever cultural heritage conservation and ethnic conciliation 

Activist or to some degree socially engaged scholars are attempting to “do good.” 
But we must recognize that public outreach is rife with tension or its potential. 
Almost universally, for one group to claim its heritage and desire to manipulate it 
in some manner to its own benefit will bring it into contestation, even conflict with 
another group — let alone when some group wishes to act upon a heritage that is 
not culturally its own. These problematic issues are developed in the case studies 
presented in the edited volume I have cited above. 

Anne Pyburn (2006, 2007) has been sanguine in her assessment of the potential 
for the scholar himself/herself to be drawn into local/local-national disputes once 
the Pandora’s Box of engagement is opened. 

It is nice [for the archaeologist] to bring wages into a poor village. It may not be nice to 
undermine the local political order by paying wages and giving power to village factions 
who oppose the local majority. . . It is also not really nice to tell local people who have been 
in mortal conflict with their government for generations over their land rights that you have 
come to take away the ancient altar their ancestors put on the land, so that the government 
can protect it for them. . .. Heritage can affect people’s life chances in the modern world, and 
consequently archaeologists cannot be the only arbiters of the past that we hope to reclaim. 


H. Silverman 

Value and UNESCO 

With promulgation of the World Heritage Convention (Convention Concerning the 
Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage) in 1972, UNESCO became 
the foremost heritage authorizer, establishing the ground rules for the 185 signato- 
ries (as of June 2008) to this international document. Since its inception, however, 
scholars have recognized inherent problems in key principles of the document, in 
addition to obstacles concerning its implementation. 

Byrne criticized the western hegemonic aspect of archaeological heritage man- 
agement, which has been imposed as well as spread by an ideology that takes 
“universal value” as inherent and that privileges those sites which are “intelligible to 
the Occidental mind and . . . the Western way of experiencing the past” (1991:276). 
This would explain why 132 states-parties generated World Heritage Sites in only 
82 countries as of 1992 (20 years after the Convention was signed) with the dis- 
parity largely coming from the non- Western world. Pressouyre worried that the 
Convention “condemns to oblivion the forms which have not been accepted into 
the history of civilization and the history of art” (1996:47). The disparity between, 
especially, European sites on the World Heritage List and sites in non- Western coun- 
tries continues although UNESCO is striving to diminish the imbalance (see related 
discussion in Labadi 2007). 

Pressouyre identified three types of fundamental contradiction in the World 
Heritage Convention: “impingement of [national] sovereignty, transfer of 
sovereignty [as when Germany was unified], properties endangered due to inter- 
nal conflict [as when Yugoslavia broke up]” (1996:9). He also went on to indicate a 
contradiction between the Convention’s requirement of uniqueness and representa- 
tiveness (1996:16). For instance, “no absolute masterpiece (neither a Greek temple, 
nor a Maya pyramid, nor a Hindu pagoda) can pretend to be universally recognized” 

Smith has analyzed heritage as a social and cultural practice and process 
(2006:13) that legitimates particular spokespersons and managers of “the past” 
(2006:29); “alternative and subaltern ideas about ‘heritage’ [are undermined], . . 
as a result of the naturalizing effects of . . . the ‘authorized heritage discourse’ ” 
(2006:11). That “authorized heritage discourse” makes heritage innately valuable 
(2006:29). It is the basic criterion of “outstanding universal value” in the Convention 
that many find most objectionable because it is both elusive and Western-biased (see, 
e.g., Cleere 2001; Pomeroy 2005; Tunbridge and Ashworth 1996:21). 

Because World Heritage Sites are more prone to attract tourism than other sites 
(indeed, this may be the key reason why countries compete to have their sites placed 
on the UNESCO list), another issue of value is implicated in the listing beyond 
alleged “universal value.” It is the value of these sites to stakeholders below the 
level of UNESCO, the global tourism industry, and the nation-state. What is their 
value and who decides? We can see this issue played out in microcosm — outside the 
sphere of World Heritage Sites — in Gordillo’s (2009) study of architecturally mod- 
est historical sites in northern Argentina. Stakeholder attitudes there ranged from 
disinterest, to mild curiosity, to antagonism toward the ruins — the latter in terms of 

1 Contested Cultural Heritage: A Selective Historiography 


a conflict over preservation versus use of the land for an industry that would provide 
badly needed jobs versus perceived tourism potential. Four case studies in a recent 
Getty volume (de la Torre 2005) explore “heritage values” as these impact site man- 
agement. The Getty studies emphasize preservation of the significance and values of 
a place/site — to be elicited from various stakeholders replete with the conflicts and 
contestations that may emerge, such as no value being attached, or symbolic value 
at odds with potential economic value (on cultural heritage from the point of view 
of a team of economists, see Hutter and Rizzo 1 997). 

In an article in a recent issue of The Economist (“The Limits of Soft Cultural 
Power,” September 12, 2009, p. 65), the director of the World Heritage Centre 
says that UNESCO should be protecting not buildings but human values (unde- 
fined). But, he continues, “the process breaks down in countries where governance 
hardly exists. And places where tourism and other economic activities are expand- 
ing uncontrollably may also trample on UNESCO’s high principles, which seek to 
preserve the integrity of sites and their surroundings.” Responding to the world- 
views, politics, economic constraints, and pressures of 185 countries, UNESCO is 
itself conflicted over its own cultural heritage policies. 

A country’s nominations to the UNESCO World Heritage List can reflect con- 
flicts over cultural heritage at home. Mexico is a case in point. In a fascinating 
study Bart van der Aa (2005) has analyzed Mexico’s 22 World Heritage Sites in 
terms of their antiquity (precolumbian, colonial, post-colonial) and nature. He is 
able to demonstrate a careful, deliberate balance practiced by Mexico in nomi- 
nating, almost in tandem, one archaeological site and one historic site each year 
beginning with the first nomination in 1987. Such a pattern cannot be coincidental 
and van der Aa relates it to the particularities of Mexico’s official construction of 
national identity which overtly privileges “mestizo,” the combination of indigenous 
and Spanish. He sees each of the identities comprising Mexico’s official national 
identity as contested. Indigenous people are still at the bottom of the social lad- 
der notwithstanding the nation’s appropriation of the greatest of their centers (he 
does not develop the argument further, but it would be in government and private 
architecture, marketing for tourism, and so on). Those people descended from the 
Spanish conquistadores are tainted by the brutality of the conquest and conversion 
to Catholicism. Since the Mexican Revolution that which is “pure Spanish” has been 
officially de-emphasized or denied in favor of the hybrid culture. Inasmuch as under 
conditions of globalization, in which UNESCO participates, it is important for all 
countries to be represented on the World Heritage List for the marketing of national 
identity, Mexico has chosen to value sites representing the diverse components of 
its history. Furthermore, Mexico has now added a group of post-colonial sites to 
the Tentative List submitted to UNESCO. While one may certainly question the 
“outstanding universal value” of the Rivera and Kahlo Museum or the railway sta- 
tion at Aguascalientes (among other Tentative List sites), it is very interesting that 
Mexico, unlike the vast majority of states-party to the World Heritage Convention, 
is moving its concept of cultural heritage into the present era, seeing it as dynamic 
and in process. Van der Aa (2005:140) makes the important observation that her- 
itage selection has a temporal character (i.e., nominations are a product of their 


H. Silverman 

contemporary times). Mexico is undertaking “an orientation towards new kinds of 
heritage that might represent ‘real’ Mexicanness. It is, at the same time, a movement 
away from the former, one-sided, stress on pre-colonial and colonial heritage” (van 
der Aa 2005:141, emphasis in original). 

Finally, UNESCO faces contestation of its own “universal” authority and the 
value of its product. Two high-profile, efficient, private, heritage-protecting organi- 
zations with politically unencumbered budgets and personnel — World Monuments 
Fund and GHF — conduct surgically effective interventions around the world (see 
GHF discussion above). And, in 2009, the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology 
at University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) launched a “Sustainable 
Preservation Initiative,” directed by Lawrence Coben, which seeks to move heritage 
work further into the field of social responsibility through its explicit attention to 
stakeholder communities under the slogan “Saving Sites By Transforming Lives.” 

Local, National, International, and Global Intersections 

Smith and Wobst (2005:6) have argued, “More and more decisions that affect 
Indigenous peoples and their communities are made at the global level, far away 
from local realities. . ..often Indigenous peoples have neither voice nor repre- 
sentation in the global decision-making that affects their lives. Archaeologists 
have a responsibility to facilitate Indigenous voices [and] enable the voices of 
Indigenous peoples to be heard and inform decision-making at the global level.” 
Silberman (1995:257) has incisively argued that “the archaeology of every new 
nation addresses both a domestic and an international audience.” Today, tensions 
in the local, national, international, and global interface lie at the heart of contested 
cultural heritage. This fact is precisely apprehended by Lisa Breglia: 

For regional and national institutions charged with preserving and promoting culture, her- 
itage comprises material spaces of intervention, such as archaeological ruins, used to 
produce symbolic meanings that forge identity, belonging, and community at regional 
and national levels. . .. Cultural heritage sites are key accoutrements of the . . . state as 
an ‘imagined community’. . . But their material and symbolic significance does not stop 
at the nation’s territorial borders. Cultural heritage sites are sites of international interest 
for tourism and conservation/preservation interests, as well as for academic researchers. 
( 2009 : 61 ) 

One of the most stunning cases of the intersection of local, national, interna- 
tional, and global interests in cultural heritage occurred in 1997 when 58 foreign 
tourists were massacred at the Temple of Hatshepsut, just outside the Valley of the 
Kings, in Luxor, Egypt. This was not purely a barbarism of fundamentalist Islam. 
The pathologies leading to the massacre had begun decades before with the Egyptian 
government’s attempt to remove and resettle the local population in Gourna, whose 
homes sat over ancient tombs, which the Gournis had been looting for generations if 
not centuries (Fathy 1969; Mitchell 2001). Architect Hassan Fathy’s plan to provide 
the Gournis with better housing in New Gourna, a town of his own creation, was 
resisted by the populace (“Even the peasant is slow to take an interest in proposals 

1 Contested Cultural Heritage: A Selective Historiography 


for bettering his condition. He is apathetic and dumb, he has no education, no con- 
ception of national affairs, no status. He does not believe that he can help himself or 
make himself heard.” [Fathy 1969]) and delayed by officialdom (“cooperating with 
the bureaucracy is like wading through a bog. . . we are all at the mercy of a system 
of official procedure that everybody hates” [Fathy 1969]) (see Mitchell 2001). 

Meskell (2005) and Mitchell (2001, 2002) brought Fathy’s tale of the two towns 
up to date, beginning in 1991 when Egypt began to aggressively pursue tourism in 
the context of liberalization and privatization. The same conflict between tradition 
and modernity that Fathy railed against came into play once more, with tourism 
being “a means to modernization, transforming its heritage into a tourist product 
and profit-making capital” (Meskell 2005:131; Mitchell 2002:250, n. 14:362-363). 
Most Gournis have not wanted to leave their homes and move to New Gourna, not 
in Fathy’s era and not since then (Mitchell 2001:217-218). The Egyptian govern- 
ment (backed by ICOMOS, the World Bank, USAID, see Meskell 2005:133-134; 
Mitchell 2001:222) has not wanted them to loot or intrude on the “past perfect” 
image of the west bank of the Nile River. In the 1990s the effort to evict the Gournis 
was “linked not just to arguments about archaeological preservation, but to demands 
to create a proper tourist experience. National heritage is now to be shaped by the 
forces and demands of a worldwide tourist industry” (Mitchell 2001:228). Gournis 
have made money, in varying degrees, from the tourism industry (directed at a 
pre-Islamic past that they do not necessarily claim as their own; see discussion in 
Meskell 2003) while being captive to its fluctuations. The attack was as much a 
protest against Cairo as it was against the West. The ancient Egyptian temple was 
the ideal vehicle for the murderers to assert their claims. 

Recent studies of contemporary Maya populations in Central America also have 
emphasized multi-scalar antagonisms. Mortensen (2007) has written about the dis- 
parate treatment of the idolized ancient Maya and their downtrodden descendants in 
Copan, Honduras. The “ancient Maya have been transformed through archaeology 
and tourism into a valuable worldwide commodity” (Mortensen 2007: 135), whereas 
the history of the larger number of non-Maya indigenous people and those popula- 
tions themselves are officially marginalized. Nor is the situation of the contemporary 
Maya much better. Friihsorge (2007) considers pan-Maya activism in Guatemala 
with regard to particular Maya groups and with regard to the state. Since the end 
of the civil war in Guatemala in 1996, heritage claims to spectacular Maya sites 
and sacred landscapes are contested by the lowland indigenous Maya and highland 
Ladino elite (who assert Maya and indigenous descent). As Friihsorge recognizes, 
there are tensions between local and national histories, which are exacerbated by the 
privileging of the Classic Period Maya. 

The living Maya of Mexico also are center stage in recent considerations of local, 
national, international, and global interconnections. Breglia has analyzed a partic- 
ular situation on the Yucatan Peninsula, where the local Maya group is so feisty 
that “they do not even consider themselves to be descendants of the ancient Maya” 
whose Chunchucmil ruins partially overlap the community’s federal land grant 
(2009:55). Notwithstanding the income earned by community members through 
participations in six seasons of excavation conducted by Breglia, “few embraced 


H. Silverman 

the archaeological significance of the site [and they had their own] construction of a 
competing notion of heritage that challenged the nascent archaeological discourse” 
(Breglia 2009:56). These Maya were concerned with protecting their rights under 
the national land grant system ( ejido ). Breglia’s analysis is exemplary in cautioning 
archaeologists, state, and international heritage management policy: “While cultural 
patrimony is linked with the state, national, and international discourses of universal 
cultural value and ‘good’ . . . the concept of patrimonio ejidal is a locally constructed 
and historically embedded concept tied to experiences of . . .debt peonage . . . and 
the socioeconomic transformations of the rural landscape” (Breglia 2009:57-58). 
Local people may feel much more inclined, based on experience and knowledge, to 
stake their future on the land rather than the promises held out to them by tourism 
development in the global context. The issue is further informed by the Mexican 
constitution, which gives the nation inalienable rights over archaeological remains 
rather than individuals or local communities. Thus, Breglia concludes that “distinct 
regional and even local (site-specific) understandings of Maya cultural heritage exist 
both in tandem and in tension with the Mexican nationalist discourse on cultural her- 
itage, as well as with the criteria of universal cultural value defined by UNESCO” 

The issue of land rights and cultural heritage manifested in archaeological 
sites (see Breglia above), particularly World Heritage Sites, necessarily creates 
linkages at all levels of administration, from the local community to UNESCO. 
Gillespie’s (2009) treatment of Angkor provides the maximal case in point. Here, in 
a region decimated by the murderous Khmer Rouge regime (as occurred through- 
out Cambodia), some one hundred villages occupy the Archaeological Park. Land 
is vitally important to these impoverished farmers and is recognized as such by 
the government “so much so that the concept of security of tenure has become 
securely ensconced in the country’s development rhetoric” (Gillespie 2009:339). 
The Archaeological Park has been zoned with decreasing degrees of protection 
emanating out from the high-profile core encompassing 208 sq km in which resi- 
dential use and commercial development are prohibited. Moreover, Gillespie notes 
an “apparent lack of community consultation on issues, particularly that of secu- 
rity of tenure for residents within the Park” (2009:345). Although management of 
Angkor is a work in progress, the pressure of tourism must be gaining. I can envi- 
sion a future situation in which Cambodia is de-mined, new archaeological sites are 
opened for tourism to relieve pressure on Angkor’s monumental core, and farmers 
under new conditions of political freedom begin to protest for land rights that will 
earn them immediate tangible benefits rather than the often elusive and inequitably 
distributed income from tourism. Indeed, Gillespie observes that compensation pro- 
visions have been overlooked in the 2001 Land Law, whose Article 5 is basically 
an eminent domain argument: “No person may be deprived of his ownership [of 
land] unless it is in the public interest” (cited in Gillespie 2009:347) — and, indeed, 
UNESCO’s concept of “outstanding universal value” is interwoven with the codified 
idea that World Heritage Sites “ belong to all peoples of the world, irrespective of 
the territory on which they are located” (, emphasis 
added). The tangible benefit of World Heritage Sites in developing countries readily 

1 Contested Cultural Heritage: A Selective Historiography 


accrues to the national government through tourism income and economic devel- 
opment, usually to regional governments, and certainly to private enterprise. At the 
local level these benefits may be far less or even missing. 

This issue of disparity was a key point of departure for my own project in 
Cuzco, former capital of the Inca Empire and today Peru’s premier tourist desti- 
nation. Among my goals was to assess local opinion about the benefits of tourism 
in this World Heritage Site (see, especially, Silverman 2002b, 2006a). I was sur- 
prised to find a significant range of public opinion, for where I saw exploitation 
the local population often saw opportunity — some work is better than no work, 
basically — notwithstanding an almost uniformly sanguine realization about eco- 
nomic inequities and the loss of social space in the historic center. Indeed, a 
fundamental theme throughout manifold studies of cultural heritage is the social 
construction of space and its obligatory counterpart, the contestation of space. 

Several fascinating studies about local-national conflict over cultural heritage 
rights in Bolivia have recently been published. They concern disputes over the 
transfer of archaeological materials from their point of origin (local, indigenous) 
to a new place of display (national capital, hispanic, mestizo) and the repatriation 
of these materials. The most salient case concerns Aymara political mobilization 
which finally (and recently) culminated in this historically disenfranchised ethnic 
group gaining control over their ancestral site of Tiwanaku (a World Heritage Site) 
with tangible and intangible benefits accruing, including the return of the renowned 
Bennett Monolith of Tiwanaku from a traffic roundabout in La Paz to a new site 
museum on the altiplano under Aymara control (Scarborough 2008; see also Hastorf 
2006:87). At the time (early 1930s), the removal of the Monolith from Tiwanaku, 
following its discovery, was framed as an act of rescue (protection from the local 
Aymara inhabitants, regarded as ignorant and destructive), but clearly it also was an 
appropriation of the indigenous past by a dominant society that had utter disdain for 
the civilization’s descendants (indeed, it was disputed whether the ancestral Aymara 
had even created Tiwanaku). When the Monolith was finally returned to Tiwanaku 
and the Aymara, the context of the cultural restitution was one of rising political 
power for indigenous peoples. 

A comparable story is told by Benavides (2004:164-178) concerning a pre- 
columbian Ecuadorian carved monolith, known as San Biritute, which a local 
community claiming descent from the ancient culture wanted repatriated. It had 
been removed by force in 1952 and taken to the coastal city of Guayaquil. Now, in 
1994, the comma wanted it back and said they’d been trying to get it for decades. 
For the comuneros the monolith had ritual power, particularly to produce rain. In 
Guayaquil the archbishop wanted it put in a museum, not returned to the com- 
munity where it could generate cultism. The conservative mayor of Guayaquil 
agreed and the monolith is exhibited in the museum where it can be seen but not 
worshipped. This struggle between a rural community and a major city over a pre- 
columbian icon revealed a contest that “has very little to do with historical reasoning 
per se and much more to do with history’s relationship with political authority 
and power” (Benavides 2004: 174-175). Benavides provides other material support- 
ing his overall argument that in Ecuador (as elsewhere) historical representation 


H. Silverman 

plays a fundamental role “in the maintenance and functioning of national political 
domination” (Benavides 2004:179). 

Especially with Gupta and Ferguson’s (1992) attention to interconnectedness 
of space under conditions of human mobility and transnational cultural flows and 
Appadurai’s (1996) discussion of the production of locality, the situation of her- 
itage is yet more complicated. With the realization that we live under conditions 
of globalization, claims to cultural heritage now involve, among other important 
aspects, the role of diasporic populations. Hodder writes, “With globalisation ‘oth- 
ers’ have become less strange and have been imported into all societies as a result 
of human mobility, migration and tourism” (1998:127). Orser (2007) identified this 
issue clearly when he wrote about contestations between Irish Americans and the 
Irish living in Ballykilcline, Ireland over the rights of heritage. Diaspora is at the 
heart of Bruner’s (1996) discussion of African American pilgrimage to slave sites 
in Ghana (see also Landry, this volume). Moreover, in this age of multiculturalism 
and in keeping with UNESCO’s mantra of world heritage and universal value, all 
groups can claim what otherwise would be the heritage of others, supported, when 
necessary, by differing degrees of argumentation and historical legitimacy. 

In the Political Arena 

Cultural heritage policies and practices are inherently political, lending themselves 
to manipulation: What is considered heritage? Why? By whom? Why? What is not? 
Why? What is well managed? Why? What is ignored or erased? Why? What is 
included in the discourse of nationhood? Why? What is excluded? Why? Who ben- 
efits from repatriation or cultural restitution? Why? Earlier and recent literature bear 
directly on these questions. 

In an oft-cited article Appadurai wrote that the past is “collectively held, pub- 
licly expressed and ideologically charged. . . versions of the past . . . are likely to 
vary within the groups that form a society. . . discourse concerning the past between 
social groups is an aspect of politics, involving competition, opposition and debate” 
(1981:202). Rafael Samuel, the famous Marxist historian of British urban life, was 
also concerned with the politics of heritage, writing, “Politically, heritage. . . draws 
on a nexus of different interests. It is intimately bound up with competition for land 
use, and struggle for urban space. Whether by attraction or repulsion it is shaped 
by changes in technology. It takes on quite different meanings in different national 
cultures, depending on the relationship of the state and civil society, the openness 
or otherwise of the public arena to initiatives which come from below or from the 
periphery” (2008:287). 

Istanbul is an excellent example of the political aspects of heritage. The city has 
been a microcosm of Turkey’s ethnic mixing for centuries. Bartu (2001) recounts 
the intersection of heritage politics and urban development through consideration 
of debates over historic preservation and revitalization of the Pera/Beyoglu district, 
which was established in the thirteenth century by Genoese traders and functioned 
as an independent enclave in an otherwise Byzantine context. Under the Ottomans 

1 Contested Cultural Heritage: A Selective Historiography 


in the fifteenth century it still maintained its independence and trading preeminence. 
In the nineteenth century it welcomed native minorities: Jews, Armenians, Greeks. 
Basically it was the non-Muslim district of the city and it became the most prosper- 
ous, progressive, and cosmopolitan. It was the European face of Istanbul and Turkey. 
When a mayor of Istanbul proposed massive urban renewal plans for Istanbul in the 
1980s, to transform it into a global city, debate raged about Pera/Beyoglu. Couldn’t 
it just be demolished since it wasn’t Turkish ? Bartu says, “Such a view demonstrated 
both the power of the Turkish nationalist project and its ambivalent relationship 
with Europe” (2001:138). Others defended the district with nostalgia for its glorious 
past, now run down. Was the district “heritage” and was it worth preserving? The 
questions surrounding the district became more complicated with the ascendancy 
of an Islamist municipal government in 1994 for whom Pera/Beyoglu represented 
cosmopolitan degeneration. Remarkably, though, the new party embraced architec- 
tural historic preservation and tolerance. Bartu’s study demonstrates how fragile 
the politics of heritage are, and how amenable to political exploitation cultural 
heritage is. 

Egypt exemplifies similarly entangled plural pasts. “Egypt’s effective past is 
materially that of its Islamic heritage and the more recent European inlay. The 
Pharaonic past is a political card. It can arouse passionate responses. . . but it has 
not effectively become an integral or a predominant element of the materiality of 
Egyptian life” (Hassan 1998:212). I reached a similar conclusion in my study of the 
appropriation of the past in the coastal city of Nazca, Peru, famous for its World 
Heritage Site of giant geoglyphs traced on a vast plain. Although the iconography 
of the geoglyphs and memorabilia of them are abundantly visible in town, virtually 
no one draws a cultural connection to the precolumbian past (Silveman 2002b). And 
in Cuzco, where Inca ancestry is far more tangibly obvious in the built environment, 
cultural practices, and racial descent of the population, it is the Catholic present 
that is the material stuff of daily practice; “playing Inca” is basically restricted to 
those earning a direct income from such performances and to civically prescribed 
events — notwithstanding the frequent prideful statement among the populace at 
large of “I am descended from the Incas” (Silverman 2002b). 

Dictators, in particular, as strong political actors, have the wherewithal, if so 
desired, to intervene in cultural heritage programmatically and rapidly. In this vol- 
ume Higueras discusses Mussolini’s actions on the Roman landscape. Gilkes also 
considers fascist Italy noting that “the fascists in Italy could draw inspiration directly 
from the everyday environment of the classical remains that littered Italian towns 
and cities. . . By overstepping the middle ages and other ‘ages of decadence,’ the 
fascists linked themselves to the Romans, whose imperial might and penchant for 
territorial aggrandizement were exemplars of what could be achieved by the fascist 
‘new men’ ” (2006:35). 

Italian territorial reach extended to Albania, across the Adriatic Sea, where series 
of archaeological projects were commissioned to support Mussolini’s interpreta- 
tion of history (Gilkes 2006). Fascist archaeology also crossed the Mediterranean 
Sea into Libya, where “based on [an] extremely simple view of history, the fas- 
cists postulated that in antiquity there would have been large numbers of Latin 


H. Silverman 

immigrants who came to the Tripolitanian part of the Roman province of Africa 
Proconsularis ” (Altekamp 2006:63). “As a consequence, the presentation of Roman 
Tripolitania demanded monumental restoration and reconstruction” (Altekamp 
2006:64). Today, cultural heritage in Libya is under the control of a different dic- 
tator, Muammar Gaddafi, during whose rule five archaeological sites have been 
inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List: a Roman city (Leptis Magna in 1982), 
a Phoenician trading post (Sabratha in 1982), a Greek colonial city (Cyrene in 
1982), an oasis town (Ghadames in 1988), and a rock art site (Tadrart Acacus in 
1985). In the week-long celebration of Ghaddafi’s 40-year reign, events were held 
at the four World Heritage List (WHL) built sites as well as in Tripoli. This use 
of ancient sites for political reinforcement, of course, is not uncommon — the Shah 
of Iran held a blowout party at Persepolis; Evo Morales of Bolivia and Alejandro 
Toledo of Peru both took presidential oaths of office at their countries’ signature 
sites, Tiwanaku and Machu Picchu, respectively. Although Ghaddafi does not appear 
to invest significantly in cultural heritage projects, he is not ideologically adverse to 
these pre-Islamic sites and draws on them when convenient. To have sites on the 
World Heritage List is to be a member of the world community. This reality seems 
not to be lost on dictators worldwide. 

Politics and heritage are deeply entwined right now in a high-stakes game for 
legal international recognition, tourism, and investment in the Former Yugoslav 
Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), today the self-named Republic of Macedonia, 
versus Greece. On its “Permanent Mission to the United Nations” webpage, 
Macedonia has coined the slogan “. . .Cradle of Culture, Land of Nature. . .” and in 
Spring 2009 Macedonia launched an exceptionally appealing TV promotional ad, 
“Macedonia — Timeless” (, imme- 
diately contested by an unofficial YouTube response, “Macedonia is Greece” 
(http://www. youtube. com/watch?v=fP_bSxRIz-I). Macedonia’s appropriation of 
Alexander the Great as the name of its international airport in Skopje, the capital, is 
so significant on the international stage that President Obama has been pressured by 
three hundred academic classicists to urge FYROM “to forego its hero-based focus, 
since they believe that the inhabitants, who are primarily Slavic-speaking, have no 
legitimate claim to the heritage of Alexander” (Rose 2009). 

Multi-ethnic states face particular challenges (internal and external) in the 
adjudication and management of their cultural heritage, including that which is 
extraterritorial. Just as Greece claims that the Republic of Macedonia/FYROM 
is Greek, with its Slavic population dating to 1,000 years after Alexander the 
Great, so UNESCO’s “efforts to preserve Tibetan cultural sites as examples of 
tangible world heritage [coincide with] Chinese state policies to strengthen polit- 
ical claims to Tibet through the promotion of cultural and heritage ties between 
China and Tibet” (Shepherd 2009:57). In 1994 three major sites in Lhasa (Potala 
Palace, Jokhang Temple, Norbulingka) were listed by UNESCO as a single World 
Heritage Site ensemble on the World Heritage List, along with China’s other World 
Heritage Sites (cultural, natural, mixed), thus internationally affirming China’s con- 
trol of Tibet while promoting tourism to this already appealing destination and 
justifying modernization and economic development while reiteratively facilitating 

1 Contested Cultural Heritage: A Selective Historiography 


Chinese authority and also the disappearance of authentic Tibetan culture. Shepherd 
argues convincingly that “UNESCO plays into the ongoing Chinese state project 
of creating an ‘imagined community’ across space and through time” (2009:64). 
UNESCO, which vociferously proclaims itself to be apolitical, is content to attempt 
to encourage physical preservation of the monuments it has listed as universal world 
heritage. What China does with that designation, short of actions that would require 
UNESCO putting Lhasa on the notorious List of World Heritage in Danger, is 
China’s business. 

Of particular interest in terms of multi-ethnic states is the agreement between five 
countries to participate in a mutually beneficial transnational tourist circuit called 
“La Ruta Maya.” The idea was proposed by officials of the National Geographic 
Society (!) to the governments of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El 
Salvador, each of which accepted. It has been a success most especially for the 
Central American signatories. Belize, in particular, has benefitted as an English- 
speaking country now with a significant independent tourism that combines ruins 
with spectacular beaches (compare with Crete, discussed above). Non-specialized 
travel agencies offer “Route of the Maya” tours, most typically covering the four 
smaller countries (Mexico is usually its own trip). Travel brochures emphasize the 
Maya past and living Maya communities. And here is where a paper by Rosemary 
Joyce becomes most interesting. In addition to questioning what makes one Maya 
site worthy of the UNESCO World Heritage designation but not others, and recog- 
nizing the intersection of archaeological authority with the global space of tourism 
and global cultural capital, Joyce (2003) worries that “mayaness” is being used for 
nation building in countries with multiple ethnic groups. Mayanization deprivileges 
other ethnic groups, such as the Lenca of western Honduras. Indeed, it is an acci- 
dent of political borders that Copan is in Honduras rather than Guatemala as it is so 
near that border, just south of Quirigua, and so unlike the rest of Honduras’ archae- 
ological record. Cooperative international politics among countries that in the past 
have sometimes fought wars with each other have produced, in association with the 
global tourism industry and global capital, a strong Maya-non-Maya dichotomy in 
Central America. Interestingly, however, Honduras is starting to establish a pluralis- 
tic discourse about its national identity, recognizing its multiple ethnic groups while 
still privileging Copan. Guatemala and El Salvador similarly are starting to produce 
a multicultural ideology. Yet it is Maya sites that hold national attention as when 
Copan was chosen as the venue for an indigenous protest. “[T]he tactic drew on the 
rhetoric of mayanization and the conflation of Honduras with Copan that was part of 
long-established nationalist discourse. Pan-Indian activism had come to Honduras 
and when it did, it used the international visibility of the classic Maya site, and the 
indigenous authenticity of the contemporary Chorti Maya, to advance a uniquely 
modern cause” (Joyce 2003:93). 

Politics of a different kind are implicated in the Musee du Quai Branly, the 
brainchild of former French president Jacques Chirac, which opened in 2006. The 
museum houses collections formerly in the Musee de 1’ Homme and Musee des 
Arts d’Afrique et d’Oceanie, both created to showcase France’s colonial holdings. 
Although the Musee du Quai Branly (a neutral, geographically based name chosen 


H. Silverman 

to avoid controversy) is new, its exhibition script is traditional notwithstanding 
dramatic (though severely underlit) presentation and marketing as “arts premiers” — 
world class art — rather than being relegated to the status of anthropological or 
natural history curiosity. 

Internecine museum politics intervened in the birth of the Musee de Quai Branly 
for it faced challenges from other museums in Paris over which had the right to 
maintain and exhibit certain categories of material (Price 2007). International poli- 
tics are in evidence in that this material culture had been obtained from non- Western 
peoples who were in no position to resist relinquishing it and who ultimately had no 
role in its re-presentation in the Musee de Quai Branly. By maintaining possession 
rather than repatriating various items (notably those which are ethnographic with 
known ceremonial uses or religious connotation), Chirac and his museum were sus- 
taining a colonial stance as much as non- Western peoples were being “honored.” 
Rather, Musee du Quai Branly has not “confront[ed] the full story of France’s past 
as a colonial power, . . . invite [d] meaningful participation by members of the fourth- 
world cultures represented in its collections, and . . . acknowledge [d] the continuing 
dynamism of those cultures in the twenty-first century” (Price 2007:178). 

Finally, for as much as UNESCO can be decried as Western in orientation (see 
above and see below), nevertheless one is tempted to think that there are times 
when action should be taken concerning cultural heritage. Meskell (2002:565) raises 
this point concerning various erasures being perpetrated in one country against 
the heritage originating from another country or culture or group. In these cases, 
such as Saudi Arabia demolishing an Ottoman fort in Mecca, “neither the U.S. or 
UNESCO has intervened for a number of reasons: politics, timing, and cultural 
value” (Meskell 2002:565). There is, then, a “political dimensionality of heritage 
and what constitutes worth saving” (Meskell 2002:565, emphasis in original). 

Intangible Heritage 

Interest in intangible heritage as a major locus of manifold contestation has surged to 
the fore coincident with UNESCO’s promulgation of the Universal Declaration on 
Cultural Diversity in 2001 and the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible 
Heritage in 2003 (see Ruggles and Silverman 2009a; Smith and Akagawa 2009; note 
the founding of the International Journal of Intangible Heritage in 2006). But even 
before these documents were promulgated, scholars were recognizing fundamen- 
tal problems in the doctrine of universality and linking of “heritage” to economic 
development through tourism. Ucko, for instance, noted an “inherent assumption by 
archaeologists and national legislators that ‘the past’ is a national asset whose rights 
and interests must take precedence over the more particularized rights of groups 
which are often called ethnic” (1989:xii). 

Since 2003 there has been particular concern with the potential for state abuse 
contained within the UNESCO documents. Pyburn writes, “Also common are sit- 
uations in which preservation itself is a means of oppression, as when descendant 
groups have their cultural identity enforced and economic disadvantages naturalized 

1 Contested Cultural Heritage: A Selective Historiography 


by constant official and public rhetoric about cultural continuity, authentic heritage, 
and characterization of the poor as ‘traditional’ and ‘living in the past’ ” (2007:172). 
Pyburn’s point is reiterated by Cojti Ren (2006:12), who writes of the situation of 
the Maya of Guatemala, “to be considered ‘authentic Maya,’ we must conserve the 
cultural practices and traits of our great past, such as the rituals, the cosmovision, 
the art, and the agriculture. Even dress and physical traits must be maintained as the 
traits of ‘the real Mayas of the past.’ Otherwise our identity is questioned.” Smith 
has argued that the rhetoric of heritage disempowers “the present from actively 
rewriting the meaning of the past [and] the use of the past to challenge and rewrite 
cultural and social meaning in the present becomes more difficult” (2006:29). 

These apparently unanticipated conundrums of the UNESCO convention are also 
highlighted by Silverman and Ruggles (2007b:3): “while heritage can unite, it can 
also divide. . . it can be a tool for oppression”; they speak of the “uneasy place” 
of heritage in the UNESCO convention. Logan (2007:37) worries that while it is 
implicit in the convention that all cultures should be preserved and protected equally, 
there are some aspects of various peoples’ cultures that other societies might wish to 
see abandoned as being objectionable. The convention, then, is mired in the “clash 
between universalism and cultural relativism” (Logan 2007:39). Logan recognizes 
three types of conflict surrounding the cultural rights the convention is supposed 
to mitigate: (1) governments of multi-ethnic countries may find it convenient to 
abrogate the rights of their minorities so as to force assimilation and compliance 
with the regime; (2) selective interpretations of cultural heritage are used to influ- 
ence mainstream cultural identity and opinion to the detriment of human rights; 
(3) there are “inherent contradictions in the human rights framework of concepts 
and instruments themselves [because] cultural rights can be in direct conflict with 
other human rights, particularly the rights of individuals and children and women as 
groups.” Elazar Barkan (2007) raises similar problems with the convention, using 
as his examples the bioprospecting of National Geographic Society’s Genographic 
Project and the plight (or not) of Muslim women encumbered (or not) by dress codes 
and behavioral restrictions (or not). 

This Volume 

In the context of the preceding pages I now briefly present the contributions to this 
volume. As with the discussion above, the papers can be organized in a number of 
cogent ways. The framework I present below is not intended to hinder the linkages 
among the papers but to highlight particular arguments made in terms of the venues 
of contestation of cultural heritage. The papers are very rich and I only touch on 
some of their dimensions. 

Contested Spaces of Religion and Nationalism 

Ruggles deals with the contestation for space (social, religious, political, cultural) 
in Spain between the Catholic majority and the Moslem minority that once — long 


H. Silverman 

ago and for centuries — was the controlling force in Spain. Although Moslems were 
expelled in 1492, today a new kind of Moslem reconquista is taking place, with 
globalization being the context and facilitator of the immigration of a new wave of 
Moslem migrants into Spain. Moslems have reentered Spain. They claim their for- 
mer Great Mosque in Cordoba for worship and assert social, political, cultural, and 
physical space for the performance of identity. They are in conflict with the dom- 
inant, majority Catholic population, which has historicized the pre-1492 past and 
uses the mosque as the Cathedral it has been for the past centuries (indeed, archaeo- 
logical remains of a church underlie the mosque as well as being superimposed). At 
issue is Spain’s Moslem community’s demand to publicly perform their “different- 
ness” from Spanish Catholic culture. The Great Mosque of Cordoba is the vehicle 
for a larger debate over the legitimacy of this “other” population in Spain. This 
debate is significantly informed by Spanish fear of Islamic terrorism, given attacks 
suffered by Spain. Yet, since the demise of Franco’s regime, Spanish law guarantees 
religious freedom. 

Religion and politics form the theme of Hartnett’s paper as well. The centuries- 
long fight between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland has many manifestations, 
one of which is the painting of wall murals in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Republicans 
and Loyalists contest their right for space in the city, on the land. They assert contest- 
ing claims for political and cultural power and autonomy. Here the issue of Catholic 
versus Protestant strife in Northern Ireland is informed by centuries of dispute and 
violence, much as dispute and violence characterized first the Moslem conquista 
of Spain and then the Catholic reconquista. Space is the terrain of contestation 
in Belfast. As with Cordoba, there is contestation over space of performance of 
identity, identity being based on a number of cultural features such as religion. 

Landry’s paper also considers regime change, in this case from Communist to 
post-Communist in Benin, west Africa. Today various supra-national forces influ- 
ence decisions being made in Benin that concern the country’s economy. One of 
these — and by no means insignificant — is UNESCO’s promotion of the Slave Route, 
which engenders tourism that brings in foreign currency. This tourism is transna- 
tional with links being forged between Benin and Afro-American communities 
across the Atlantic: African American tourists from the USA and the descendant 
communities of Haiti and Brazil. In addition to slave heritage, Vodun religion is 
significant in the engagement of Haiti, Brazil, and Benin, most notoriously Haiti. 
Landry is concerned with contests over history and the space of Vodun, with the 
right to interpret and profit from it, indeed to share it. 

Owning and Displaying the National Past 

Ikram and Kynourgioupoulou focus on the role of iconic elements of the ancient 
past in countries that have been conquered and colonized. In both cases — Egypt 
and Greece — we are drawn back to the UK, for the Rosetta Stone is in the British 
Museum, as are the more hotly contested Parthenon Marbles (see Fitz Gibbon 2005; 
Hitchens 1997). Even more so than the Rosetta Stone, the Bust of Nefertiti in 

1 Contested Cultural Heritage: A Selective Historiography 


Berlin is Egypt’s focus for repatriation. Both authors raise issues that transcend 
legal arguments over legitimate ownership. At issue is the role of the visible past 
in the construction of national identity. Today this is further enhanced by the global 
phenomenon of tourism: Greece and Egypt both have massive tourism industries. 
The new Acropolis Museum in Athens and the new museum being built on the Giza 
Plateau can both expect to see even greater attendance if they are able to display 
these two great icons of their respective pasts. 

Zobler’s paper is a fascinating discussion about forces of nationalism and region- 
alism in a country having a brilliant, long ancient past and a recent history of 
colonialism, the latter within the context of frequent European domination of an 
Islamic country. The museum, as an institution, is well known as a venue for the 
attempted creation of national identity as well as contestation or rewriting of his- 
tory. The three museums analyzed by Zobler constitute a superb illustration of 
infra-national contests of history and identity. 

Higueras considers nationalism and its relationship to a country’s archaeologi- 
cal/historical past. His paper has two major thrusts, one of which is concerned with 
the visions of history that were inscribed on the Roman urban landscape by politi- 
cal actors in successive regimes — the Roman Empire, the liberal period, the Fascist 
State. Higueras, like Ikram, Kynourgiopoulou, and Landry, is concerned with the 
“value” of cultural heritage in its respective nation-states. When Italy came into 
being Rome immediately inherited a landscape of monuments to former greatness 
and development of the city led to new archaeological discoveries. These were put 
at the service of creating a new national sentiment overriding local identities. Then, 
when Mussolini came to power, he exalted the classical Roman heritage. 

Erasing the Past 

The second theme of Higueras’ paper concerns the erasure of heritage in Rome: past 
negation in favor of future creation. Mussolini selectively appropriated the past; a 
past that was not considered useful was a disposable past. Mussolini self-glorified 
through remodeling of the urban landscape — at grave consequence for the residents 
of Rome’s gutted vernacular landscape dating to the thirteenth through eighteenth 

Larkin’s paper deals with Zimbabwe, which is notorious for the erasure of its pre- 
colonial history by the brutal colonial regime that controlled the indigenous Shona 
people for generations. The almost achieved erasure of the site of Great Zimbabwe, 
so as to rewrite history and thereby claim territory, has few equals in the annals of 
the destruction of cultural heritage (see, e.g., Fagan 1981:44-46; Ndoro 1999). 

Complicated Identities 

The larger focus of Larkin’s paper is the complicated identities of Zimbabwe’s stone 
carving artists, who are encumbered by the historical trauma, contradictions of colo- 
nialism, and prejudices and stereotyped expectations of the international art world. 


H. Silverman 

Some of the Zimbabwean artists seek to participate in the international art world as 
named fine artists, without reference to their national or ethnic identity at all; they 
eschew Shona cultural heritage in their work. Other artists explicitly draw on tradi- 
tional themes of indigenous identity in the production of ethnographic art. Official 
authentification, gallery owners nationally and internationally, and the tourist indus- 
try all intervene in the scripting and success of artists’ work, not always to the 
satisfaction of the artists themselves. 

Galaty deals with a region where inter-ethnic strife has been so pervasive that 
it gave the world a word to describe its pathology: balkanization. The Balkans 
have long been the terrain of social, political, cultural, and religious contestation. 
In the Balkans new national borders complicate ancient and deeply held iden- 
tities. Both in ancient times and recently, central powers have used heritage in 
creative ways to undercut rival claims to territory and move boundaries. The ten- 
sions inherent in the Balkans — and which erupted into multi-party war following 
the collapse of Yugoslavia — have presented special challenges to the government 
officials charged with managing heritage resources and developing them for tourism. 
Cultural heritage management in the Balkans is a highly politically-charged process, 
and it may be some time before we see a “Balkan Route” promoting inter-nation 
tourism like the Maya Route through Central America, nor is there a “mega-ethnic” 
identity — such as “Maya” — with which people can self-servingly identify. 

Fantasy and Nation 

The intersection of identity and scientific versus pseudoscientific knowledge is 
the basis of Hanks’ very original contribution. She interrogates belief in ghosts 
and the hunt for them in historical buildings in England. Her sensitively attuned 
ethnography interprets ghost hunting as reflecting a national anxiety in Britain 
about “Englishness,” which she relates to England’s bloody historical disputes over 
religious legitimacy (Catholic vs. Protestant/Church of England) and to today’s 
waves of immigrants who culturally, racially, and religiously do not conform to 
“Englishness” yet who are part of the national body politic in this multicultural 

As is well known, new nations seek master narratives on which to create a 
sense of nationhood, an imagined community. Of particular interest is the case 
of the “Pyramids of Bosnia,” related by Galaty and well publicized (see, e.g., 
Bohannon 2006, 2008), whose promotion by their “discoverer” is an attempt to gen- 
erate a prideful and potentially profitable past on which to build a new nationalism. 
Archaeologists around the world, and many in the official Bosnian archaeological 
community, have condemned the interpretation of natural hills as the world’s largest 
and oldest pyramids. But for the town of Visoko, in which they are located, this 
notoriety is fueling cottage industries servicing curious tourists. 

Hanks’ and Galaty’s contributions also share attention to “bottom-up” construc- 
tions of heritage and how these may challenge official versions of history. In Hanks’ 
case, ghost tours “democratize” history, opening it up to alternate interpretations 

1 Contested Cultural Heritage: A Selective Historiography 


produced by non-credentialed members of the public who nevertheless are fully 
integrated into the nation. Galaty considers “how people on the margins of states 
negotiate, and help produce, history and heritage” — in this case tribal peoples 
largely isolated from the capital center of power yet, as he shows, “anything but 
passive participants in heritage creation and management.” 

Environmental Heritage 

The Maya of El Pilar are the specific focus of Anabel Ford in her pithy contribu- 
tion concerning archaeology’s discovery of a new Maya center in the “romantic” 
or “foreboding” jungle. She is concerned with the purpose this placement on the 
world map of knowledge will serve to the local people of the community who are, 
and should be, the primary stakeholders in the future of that past. She criticizes 
the homogenization of “Maya” by the tourism industry and by the stratosphere of 
political power (i.e., NAFTA leaders) and argues that we should be focusing on the 
long-term success of the Maya forest adaptation rather than putting yet another tem- 
ple site in the public domain of mass tourism whose script of “lost” or “perished” 
civilizations runs counter to historical fact. Ford emphasizes that the Maya at El 
Pilar, as elsewhere, are concerned with very present issues of a disputative nature: 
land tenure, social space in their respective nations, their representational appropri- 
ation in museums and other institutions, etc. Archaeologists can (judiciously) play 
a positive role in these contemporary matters through promotion and involvement 
in development projects, commitment to environmental issues in which the Maya 
figure prominently, and specifically with regard to the cross-border Maya, advo- 
cacy of a Peace Park serving to improve relations between Belize and Guatemala 
through adherence to sustainable agricultural and shared tourism policies, among 
other undertakings. 

A Future Without Contestation? 

As the scores of case studies presented in this introduction sadly illustrate, cultural 
heritage is an ever-present venue for contestation, ranging in scale from com- 
petitively asserted to violently claimed/destroyed. Can cultural heritage be well 
managed and beneficially promoted while simultaneously being kept within essen- 
tially benign parameters so as to efface or diminish contestation? This is difficult 
to achieve since heritage belongs to particular groups intra-nationally and notwith- 
standing UNESCO’s attempt to generate a feel-good, international ethos of world 
cultural heritage and universal value. On the other hand, projects such as those 
undertaken by GHF offer some cause for optimism, though bear in mind that GHF 
is targeting unique sites, not entire national scenarios. 

Fet’s play a mind game using Fekri Hassan’s (1998:212-213) imagining of an 
idealistic future for cultural heritage in Egypt. The multiple dimensions encom- 
passed in his prescription could well be contemplated by many of the states-party 


H. Silverman 

signatories of the World Heritage Convention and certainly merit critical discus- 
sion in forums around the world. Here I remove Hassan's specific references to 
Egypt and Pharaonic, Hellenistic, and Islamic heritage, substituting A, B, C to 
enable the reader to insert the names of any country’s particular history of cultural 
development, whether Western or non- Western: 

A stable political future of [name of country] depends upon an ability to integrate its pasts 
and recognize its [“A”, “B” and “C”] heritage, and to place that variegated heritage within 
the course of a global civilization. [The country] ’s links with the West are not limited to 
the recent history of confrontation, colonization, and decolonization. An active cultural and 
educational program to engage the public and schoolchildren in archaeological activities 
that show [the country] ’s long multicultural and rich past is essential to combat ... a loss 
of affiliation, which is exploited by subversive extreme religious parties [substitute name of 
any negative group], 

Hassan’s recommendation linking knowledge and tolerance — if combined with 
equitable economic and development policies, enfranchising politics, and thoughtful 
social planning — might begin to establish the basis for a better present and future in 
societies around the world. In this scenario, cultural heritage could not only achieve 
the debatable and nebulous universal value dictated by UNESCO but also promote 
manifold benefits in local and national communities. 


1. While tangible and intangible heritage are intimately linked, intangible heritage per se has 
received much recent attention with passage of UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of 
the Intangible Heritage in 2003 (see discussion of the development of this concept in Ruggles 
and Silverman 2009a; see also Ruggles and Silverman 2009b; Smith and Akagawa 2009). 

2. This may explain, furthermore, why Masada was not inscribed on the World 
Heritage List until 2001. And it is manifest in the careful wording of Jerusalem's 
inscription on the World Heritage List (1981, 2000): see 
en/tentativelists/1483/ and (accessed September 14, 
2009), including the fact that the first inscription was proposed by Jordan, not Israel. 

3. The cultural turn invokes contingency, agency, practice, social construction, attention to inter- 
pretive strategies, cultural contexts, and singular stories and places or micro history, etc. (see 
Bonnell and Hunt 1999). For instance, Sewell understands culture as “contradictory . . . loosely 
integrated . . . contested . . . subject to constant change . . . [and] weakly bounded” (Sewell 
1999:53-54). Raymond Williams (1958) anticipated the cultural turn a generation before, 
stressing that society, history, ideology, art, class, and democracy are sites of ideological 

4. The development of the literature, as I see it selectively, includes — chronologically — these 
highlights: Cameron 1971; Hudson 1977; Haraway 1984-1985; Lumley 1988; Vergo 1989; 
Weil 1990; Ames 1992; Hooper-Greenhill 1992, 2000; Findlen 1994; Kaplan 1994; McClellan 
1994; Sherman and Rogoff 1994; Bennett 1995; Duncan 1995; MacDonald and Fyfe 1996; 
Barringer and Flynn 1998; Conn 1998; Yanni 1999; Black 2000; Asma 2001; Kreps 2003; 
Peers and Brown 2003; Anderson 2004a; Bennett 2004; Karp et al. 2006; Levin 2007; Ostow 
2008. And see references in Note 5 below. I also note the numerous museum journals with 
critical (rather than practical) contributions, including: Museum Anthropology (founded in 
1976 and in sync with changes in anthropology overall). Journal of the History of Collections 
(founded in 1989), Museum International (founded in 1997), Museum and Society (founded 
in 2003), Collections (founded in 2004), Museums and Social Issues (founded in 2006), and 

1 Contested Cultural Heritage: A Selective Historiography 


Museum History Journal (founded in 2008). Although my literature list is culled, I think it 
fairly represents the explosion of critical museum inquiry beginning in the mid-1980s and 
increasing dramatically in the 1990s until the present — i.e., the paradigm shift discussed by 
Harrison (1993) and Anderson (2004b). The literature on museums is by now so vast (includ- 
ing publications by ICOM and UNESCO) that it exceeds the purview and possibilities of this 

5. Other prominent examples of contested heritage in the museum include: Anderson and Reeves 
1994; Clifford 1997; Crooke 2001; Dubin 1999b; Henderson and Kaeppler 1997; Holo 1999; 
Luke 2002; Price 2007; Simpson 1996; Stanworth 1994; Zolberg 1996. 

6. I would add Henri Lefebvre’s (1989) The Production of Space, whose unifying spatial 
theory — conjoining ideological, social, relational, political, performative, physical, and tem- 
poral aspects — was consilient with the social constructivism of contemporary anthropology. 
Clear antecedents to Lefebvre are Norberg-Schulz (1971) and Relph (1976). 

7. At the time this volume goes to press, Langfield et al. (2009) has not yet been released. 

See also the brief essay on this topic by George Nicholas and Julie Hollowell on the WAC 
website: (accessed 
September 1, 2009). 

8. Any treatment of Maya archaeological tourism must acknowledge an earlier, comprehensive, 
pathbreaking work: Quetzil Castaneda’s (1996) In the Museum of Maya Culture. Touring 
Chicken Itza, in which he argued that “the invention of the Maya as a culture derives from the 
historical complicities between Maya peoples, anthropological practices, tourist businesses, 
regional politics, nation building, New Age spiritualists, and international relations between 
Mexico and the United States.” 

9. The whole interview can be watched at this url: http://cts.vresp.eom/c/7GlobalHeritageFund/ 


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157-167. London: Routledge. 

Swidler, Nina, Kurt E. Dongoske, Roger Anyon, and Alan S. Downer, eds. 

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1995. Silencing the past. Power and the production of history. Boston, MA: Beacon. 

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1 Contested Cultural Heritage: A Selective Historiography 


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Chapter 2 

The Stratigraphy of Forgetting: The Great 
Mosque of Cordoba and Its Contested Legacy 

D. Fairchild Ruggles 

As with any major monument that figures prominently in architectural history, the 
Great Mosque of Cordoba has a classic architectural “story” that explains it. This 
story attracts little attention in the USA, where the medieval past is of little inter- 
est because our national narrative does not depend on it. But in Europe, where a 
recent exhibition catalogue on Islamic art concluded with the question, “Que rep- 
resenta hoy al-Andalus para nosotros?” (“What does al-Andalus represent for us 
today?”) (Cheddadi 2000:270), medieval history plays a powerful role in modern 
heritage politics. Especially in Spain, the interpretation of the medieval Iberian past, 
with its intertwining threads of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish culture, is a deeply 
political act. 

It serves as a mirror for the present and provides the justification for either 
regarding Spain as a modern participant in a diverse global world or, conversely, 
maintaining a self-contained essential Spain, defined as a nation as well as a people. 

The Great Mosque of Cordoba is one of the most visited and admired Spanish 
monuments. It is an impressive building that marks an important moment in the his- 
tory of Islamic architecture and, more specifically, Iberian Islamic architecture. It 
was built beginning in 786 by the first Hispano-Umayyad emir, c Abd al-Rahman 
I, called al-Dakhil (“the emigre”), who came to Spain (called al-Andalus) from 
Damascus, from where he had fled following the massacre of the rest of the mem- 
bers of his family in a coup d’etat. This upheaval resulted in the end of the Umayyad 
dynasty of Syria (661-750), replaced by a new dynasty, the Abbasids, who ruled 
from their capital, Baghdad, until 1258. After a long journey across northern Africa, 
where e Abd al-Rahman I had taken refuge with his mother’s people, the surviving 
young prince resettled in Cordoba, where he founded the new Hispano-Umayyad 
line (756-1031), a small elite group of Arab Muslims ruling over a majority 
Christian population (on the genealogy of this dynasty, see Ruggles 2004). 

This oft-repeated political and dynastic narrative — largely factual, although 
with an admixture of conjecture and legend — has a parallel architectural narrative 
[Note 1], According to that, under the Abbasids Islamic architecture shifted its focus 

D.F. Ruggles (El) 

Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL 61820, USA 

H. Silverman (ed.), Contested Cultural Heritage, 

DOI 10.1007/978-l-4419-7305-4_2, © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 201 1 



D.F. Ruggles 

Fig. 2.1 Cathedral-Mosque 
of Cordoba, interior of 
original prayer hall. (Photo: 
D. Fairchild Ruggles) 

from the Mediterranean to look eastward toward Mesopotamia, becoming more 
hierarchical and gaining an unprecedented grandeur of scale and luxury; meanwhile 
remote Spain carried forward the more Mediterranean Damascus style, with its clear 
debt to the Roman and Byzantine pasts. 

The Mosque of Cordoba itself shows clear debts to Roman and Byzantine archi- 
tectural traditions. It is a great basilica whose roof is supported by large marble 
columns with bases and carved capitals that reflect and reinterpret a classical vocab- 
ulary (Fig. 2.1) [Note 2]. While some of these were wrought new for the sanctuary, 
many others were spolia taken from ruined Roman and Visigothic sites in Cordoba 
and its surrounding areas. The mosque’s roof rises high due to its structure of tiered 
arches, each arch composed of alternating voussoirs of red brick and white stone, 
an elegant yet durable configuration for which there is a direct model in the Roman 
aqueduct built to serve Merida in the first century CE. It also echoes the tiered 
arcaded construction of the Great Mosque of Damascus (finished 714-715), the 
capital city of the Syrian Umayyads. After the Cordoba Mosque’s foundation in the 
late eighth century, the mosque was expanded various times in the ninth and tenth 
centuries, receiving a tall minaret in one such expansion and arcades around the 
inner face of the courtyard in another (Fig. 2.2). Its original qibla wall (the wall 
marked as being nearest to Mecca and thus guiding the orientation of prayer) was 

2 The Stratigraphy of Forgetting 


Fig. 2.2 Cathedral-Mosque 
of Cordoba, plan of stages 
from 786 to 1010. (Plan: D. 
Fairchild Ruggles) 

if H if M j> h H 

IS : A -MAkam II M I 
addition (961-76) \ J 

* * • 

■ +++++++ 



• i i i i 

Abd al-Rahman II 
addition (822-52) 


4 i 1 t t t t t 





Abd al-Rahman III 
addition (912-61) 

>n (£M/ 


pierced and the qibla moved twice toward the southern extension. In the last of those 
southern additions, the mosque received its most famous architectural element: the 
beautiful mosaic mihrab (niche indicating the direction of Mecca), made in 965 by 
a Byzantine master artist sent from the Byzantine court as a gesture of diplomatic 
goodwill (Fig. 2.3). He brought not only his artisanal knowledge to the court of 
Cordoba (where such mosaic was otherwise unknown) but also the blue and gold 
glass tesserae with which to make the images of leafy vegetation and inscriptions 
that enframe the niche and the “voussoirs” (fake because they are referential rather 
than structural). 

In 1236 Cordoba was conquered by Ferdinand III of Castile and the mosque 
was converted into a church to serve the Christian population. Despite the change 
in worship, there were few changes to the actual fabric of the building at that 
time. Although it is rarely written about — lacking the drama of co-option and 
destruction — this is perhaps the most interesting chapter in the building’s history, 
revealing the degree to which people of different faiths in Cordoba (and elsewhere 


D.F. Ruggles 

Fig. 2.3 Cathedral-Mosque of Cordoba, mihrab. (Photo: D. Fairchild Ruggles) 

in al-Andalus) felt comfortable in each other’s religious spaces. The Mosque of 
Cordoba had enormous symbolic status not only as a mosque representing the 
Muslim faith but also as the historic progenitor of all other mosques in al-Andalus. 
Yet, despite the clear presence of Arabic inscriptions indicating Quranic verses and 
the dazzling mihrab that pointed to the conceptual presence of Mecca as clearly as 
any arrow, the Christians did not hasten to demolish it. Instead, they used it as a 
church, adding chapels and burial spaces, and in the thirteenth century, a mudejar- 
style pantheon for Castilian royalty. Jerrilynn Dodds (1992:24) comments, “The 
Christians who conquered Cordoba understood that there was much more power to 
be gained from appropriating this extraordinary metaphor of their conquest than 
from destroying it.” In this way, most of its Islamic form and decoration was 
preserved for the next 300 years. 

Despite the possibility for such insight into interfaith relations, the architectural 
story loses its thread here because for the next 250 years cities such as Seville and 
Granada far outshone Cordoba. In the years following 1492, Spain officially purged 
itself of its Muslims and lews, although in actuality there were many people who 
stayed behind, converts to Christianity but still steeped in Andalusian Islamic cul- 
ture. But in the sixteenth century, the building suffered a dramatic change. In 1523 
the architects of Charles V — the first of the Hapsburg kings in Spain — scooped 
out the center of the venerable mosque and inserted a gothic cathedral choir so 

2 The Stratigraphy of Forgetting 


Fig. 2.4 Cathedral-Mosque of Cordoba, exterior view. (Photo: D. Fairchild Ruggles) 

that the mosque became the frame for the new cathedral (Fig. 2.4). Ironically, this 
act of destruction — which Charles himself purportedly perceived to be a terrible 
mistake — was probably the reason why this mosque still stands, while those of 
Toledo, Granada, Seville, and other cities were demolished and replaced entirely 
by huge churches (on the preservation and restoration of the Cordoba Mosque, see 
Edwards 2001). 

This is how the story is told: a straightforward narrative of architectural foun- 
dation, conversion, preservation, and destruction. However, as I wrote at the outset, 
the medieval past is never neutral in Spain, and so too with the Mosque of Cordoba. 
That building, as the single most powerful emblem of Islam in Iberia, has come to 
represent much more than a mere development in architectural history. As the first 
and only surviving Spanish congregational mosque, it “stands in” for a lost, or sim- 
ply repressed, Hispano-Islamic identity. This identity is claimed both by Spanish 
citizens and by others whose claim, though distant, is nonetheless aggressively — 
sometimes violently — asserted. Indeed, in a publicly released video, Osama bin 
Laden’s second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri, called for a new reconquest of 
al-Andalus: “O our Muslim nation in the Maghreb .... restoring al-Andalus [is 
impossible] without first cleansing the Muslim Maghreb of the children of France 
and Spain, who have come back again after your fathers and grandfathers sacrificed 
their blood cheaply in the path of God to expel them” (reported by Noueihed 2007). 

In the modern West, where Islam is the new Soviet Union, and where al- 
Andalus figures prominently in the rhetoric and terrorist agenda of al-Qaeda, the 
mosque is a site of conflict between two world views. One sees the mosque as a 


D.F. Ruggles 

historic monument, a relic of a firmly demarcated past that belongs to Spain, now 
safely converted to Christian use. This group continues to enjoy the celebration of 
daily mass in the church and welcomes the visits of thousands of daily tourists 
to Cordoba’s major attraction. The other group sees the mosque as a symbol with 
powerful political currency. For them it represents a lost period of Islamic ascen- 
dancy, and Islam itself provides a tool to resist the Catholic Church and to recover 
a suppressed Muslim identity. In Spain, despite increasing secularism, the Church 
remains powerful: Spain is nominally 94% Catholic (CIA 2009), and the govern- 
ment still pays the salaries of the church clergy (Simons 2004). However, after the 
death of Franco in 1975, a small number of Spaniards chose to convert to Islam for 
motivations that varied from an embrace of the faith, to a desire to reclaim a lost her- 
itage, to a rejection of Catholicism’s associations with the repressive Franco regime. 
Therefore, depending on one’s perspective, the Cathedral-Mosque is emblematic of 
medieval Iberian history (a closed chapter) or a site for prayer and resurgent Muslim 
identity. A point of clarification: I do not equate these attitudes toward Islam with 
either al-Qaeda extremism or ultra-conservative Spanish nationalism; nonetheless, 
those extremes do form part of the discourse within which the current claims to the 
monument are made. 

Archaeology has recently begun to play an important role in this argument 
because under the Cathedral-Mosque there are the remains of a much older build- 
ing, the Visigothic church of San Vicente, dating to 590. Historical sources relate 
that in the eighth century, the burgeoning Muslim community in Cordoba initially 
rented space in the church and then purchased the site from the Christian commu- 
nity, ultimately demolishing the old structure in 786 to make way for a new mosque 
with its prayer hall of arcades on columns (al-Razi, transmitted by al-Maqqari 1967, 
I: 368, and II: 7-11; Gayangos 1840-1843, 1: 217-218; also Ibn c Idhari 1948-1951, 
II: 244, 378; Ocana Jimenez 1942). Because the story reveals the Muslims’ fair treat- 
ment of the Christian community, and because the same kind of story was reported 
with regard to the acquisition of the Church of St. John in Damascus in the late 
seventh century and its reconstruction as a congregational mosque, a few modern 
scholars have asserted that there was no Visigothic church where the Cathedral- 
Mosque now stands (Terrasse 1932: 59, note 2) [Note 3]. They regard the story of 
a precedent church as a topos with no factual basis. However, archaeological exca- 
vations carried out in the 1920s by Ricardo Velazquez Bosco and in 1931-1936 by 
Felix Hernandez Gimenez (Hernandez Gimenez 1975) and expanded in recent years 
under the direction of Pedro Marfll (Marffl n.d.) unequivocally confirm the pres- 
ence of a much older and smaller church under the present site of the Cathedral- 

Spanish scholars have known this for years. But as the Visigothic remains lay 
buried and out of sight, no one paid much attention to them until a few years ago 
when Muslims began asking for the right to pray in the Cathedral-Mosque. In 2004 
the Islamic Council ( Junta Islamica ) formally petitioned Pope John Paul to allow 
Muslim prayer in the Great Mosque. Turned down, they petitioned again in 2006. In 
December of that year, Mansur Escudero, the Islamic Council’s president, insisted 
publicly on the right to pray in the mosque and called upon Muslims to join him, but 

2 The Stratigraphy of Forgetting 


the response from the Bishops was a categoric denial of the right to do so (reported 
in Nash 2007). On December 27, 2006, the Bishop of Cordoba reiterated that the 
Catholic Church had “authentic legal title” and “incontestable historic title” to the 
Cathedral (Asenjo 2006). Although the Islamic Council has repeatedly stated that 
its objective is neither repossession of the mosque nor the recovery of “a nostalgic 
A1 Andalus” (reported by Fuchs 2006), the request was perceived in precisely those 

For Muslims, the struggle is not centered on the availability of places to pray, 
because, although Spain has an insufficient number of mosques to accommodate 
its growing Muslim population (Burdett 2008), Cordoba has had its own prayer 
hall and Islamic center for more than a decade. Handsome modern mosques have 
been built elsewhere in Spain (e.g., Granada and Marbella), although their con- 
struction has sometimes sparked resistance and hate acts (as occurred in Seville). 
Likewise for non-Muslims, the precise cause for alarm is not the occasional diver- 
sity of individual religious practice, since in the past high ranking, visiting Muslim 
dignitaries have been allowed to pray in the Mosque of Cordoba. It is not individ- 
ual worship that provokes worry, so much as the public performance of difference 
realized by large congregations bowing and prostrating in prayer. At stake is 
the political power of the growing Muslim community that wishes recognition 
that they have a legitimate claim to this very historic monument. The justifica- 
tion for their request is implicitly grounded on the Cathedral’s prior identity as a 

However, archaeologists and historians knew that the premise of priority or orig- 
inality was flawed, because if the Christian cathedral’s identity could be challenged 
by the prior presence of a mosque, then the mosque’s identity could be challenged 
by the even earlier existence of the Church of San Vicente. To make this very point, 
in January 2005 a selection of the Visigothic and Roman materials found on the site 
were brought out of storage and placed on display. These include carved column 
capitals, figural sculpture, fragments of altars, a font with Visigothic geometrical 
ornament, and especially crosses (Fig. 2.5). The objects are supplemented by pho- 
tographs showing the excavations of the 1930s and present a floor plan showing 
the traces of the Visigothic church’s aisles and apses revealed through archaeol- 
ogy (Fig. 2.6). Finally, an area of the mosque floor that had been excavated also 
has been left open, revealing pebble mosaic (believed to pertain to an outbuilding 
of the Visigothic cathedral) at a depth of approximately 3 m. In short, the curators 
of the Cathedral-Mosque created the Museo de San Vicente inside the Cathedral- 

It is very well done from a museological perspective with dramatic lighting 
and adequately explanatory labels. But the reason why this collection of Roman 
and Visigothic materials has been brought out now, instead of 75 years ago, is 
not a newly kindled interest in Visigothic archaeology (which — pace my early- 
medievalist colleagues — is no more popular in Spain than it is in the USA) but rather 
a deployment of that archaeology against growing Muslim claims on the building 
as a site of prayer and identity. Although the Cathedral-Mosque is protected by 
the Spanish government under the 1985 Spanish Historic Heritage Law No. 16 and 


D.F. Ruggles 

Fig. 2.5 Museo de San Vicente, display of Visigothic pieces. (Photo: D. Fairchild Ruggles) 

by UNESCO, it is owned by the Catholic Church and is still an active Christian 
sanctuary. Its historical study is overseen by Manuel Nieto Cumplido, a canon-priest 
and the cathedral archivist, and its archaeologist is Pedro Marffl. Both are capable 
scholars, deeply interested in the complex history of the Cathedral-Mosque, who 
would be affronted by the suggestion that they may have used historical evidence 
to influence contemporary politics. Indeed, the display that complements the Museo 
de San Vicente is an indication of their thorough and even-handed scholarship: in 
another part of the prayer hall is an equally well-presented exhibition of recov- 
ered fragments from the Islamic period and a collection of the plaster impressions 
taken of the mason’s signatures scratched on the columns and capitals of the former 
mosque (Fig. 2.7). These are a remarkable testament to the humanity of the laborer, 
a real human presence. Some of the names are written capably (and can be seen 
here in several of the impressions), while others — simple abstract symbols — reveal 
the writer’s illiteracy. Moreover, although Muslim names predominate, there are a 
few ostensibly Christian names, reflecting the mixing of communities that we know 
characterized Cordoba in the period when the mosque was built. 

Another museological project has been to inscribe in stone the location where 
the former minaret once stood in the present courtyard (Fig. 2.8). This minaret was 
demolished in the tenth century and replaced by a larger tower to the north when the 
mosque was enlarged during the reign of e Abd al-Rahman III. The indication of its 
original location is not intrusive and in fact is missed by most visitors. But for the 

2 The Stratigraphy of Forgetting 


Fig. 2.6 Museo de San Vicente, plan of mosque indicating the excavated apses of the underlying 
Visigothic church. (Photo: D. Fairchild Ruggles) 

historically aware, it gives tangible presence to the vanished older mosque without 
interrupting the space of the complex as it exists today. 

If asked, the curators would surely insist that their goal is to study and display 
all aspects of the building’s complex history. But despite their broadminded inten- 
tions, the reception to their work has focused more narrowly on the issue of identity. 
When the new Museo de San Vicente opened in January 2005, it was popularly 
regarded in a very political light. Reporting on the new exhibition, the newspaper 
Cordoba referred to the “true Christian historical origins of the Mosque-Cathedral” 
and crowed, “Henceforth, one cannot explain the Arab Mosque without mentioning 
its historical Christian origins” (Recio Mateo 2005). Even at official levels, archae- 
ology has been used to justify claims. The aforementioned Bishop’s directive of 
December 27, 2007 specifically mentions Hernandez’s 1930s excavations in justi- 
fying the legitimacy of the Church’s possession of the building. Occupying a space 
somewhere between the popular and the official, a plaque at the entrance to the 
Cathedral-Mosque exaggerates the role of the Church as steward: “It is the Church, 
through its Cathedral Chapter, that has made it possible to keep the former mosque 
of the Western Caliphate, the oldest cathedral in Spain, and a World Heritage Site, 
from becoming a heap of ruins. In fact this has always been one of the missions of 


D.F. Ruggles 

Fig. 2.7 Masons’ signatures, on display in the Museo de San Vicente. (Photo credit: D. Fairchild 

the Church; to safeguard and inspire culture and art. . .” This theme is carried further 
in the brochure, which is the only other historical information provided to visitors 
on site. Offered in multiple languages, it states, 


Beneath every cathedral is always a bed of hidden cathedrals. In the case of Cordoba, tradi- 
tion traces back to its Visigoth origins. This fact is confirmed by archaeological excavations, 
whose remains can be found at the Museum of San Vicente (Saint Vincent) and in the pits 
where the remains of mosaics from the ancient Christian temple can be observed on site. 

It is a historical fact that the basilica of San Vicente was expropriated and destroyed 
in order to build what would later be the Mosque, a reality that questions the theme of 
tolerance that was supposedly cultivated in the Cordoba of the moment. This was the main 
church of the city, a martyry [sic] basilica from the 6th Century, that would be remembered 
and venerated by Christians, centuries after its destruction. 

There are myriad social and economic issues that make Islam and the prospect 
of Muslim repossession of the Cathedral-Mosque such a fraught issue. Suffice it 
to say that Spain is emerging from a period of phenomenal economic growth. As 
a result, since the death of Franco in 1975, and especially since Spain’s entry into 
the European Union in 1986, it has received increasing numbers of immigrants and 
is becoming visibly diversified. Out of a population of 42 million, an estimated 

2 The Stratigraphy of Forgetting 


Fig. 2.8 Cathedral-Mosque of Cordoba, courtyard with old (missing) minaret indicated in stone 
pavement. (Photo credit: D. Fairchild Ruggles) 

4.8 million are immigrants — mostly from Romania, South America, and Morocco — 
clinging to the bottom of the economic ladder and hoping for upward mobility (Red 
Cross 2006). Of the latter, most arrive illegally, and the voyage by boat is dangerous 
and sometimes deadly. In modern Spain there are an estimated one million Muslims, 
mostly immigrants, but also a small number of natives who converted to Islam when 
the end of Franco’s regime allowed new opportunity for religious freedom. 

The controversy over the Cathedral-Mosque occurs amidst these palpable 
changes. Indeed, I think the controversy there is not really about prayer at all, 
because in actual practice, anyone can utter a quiet prayer in the Cathedral, com- 
muning with whatever version of God their religion teaches them to worship. 
But Muslim prayer, which demands oriented standing, bowing, and prostration, 
announces its difference visibly and actively. It resists assimilation to any order 
other than Islam. Therefore, the struggle in the Cathedral-Mosque is a struggle to 
cope with the changing demographics of Spanish society, to cope with difference, 
and specifically, with Islam. That the contest is not really between Visigoths and 
medieval Muslims, but between modern nations and between modem worldviews, 
is revealed by a brief comparison with another medieval building in Spain. 

The so-called Church of El Transito in Toledo was built as a Jewish synagogue in 
the fourteenth century (Fig. 2.9). The patron was Samuel Halevi Abulafia, the pow- 
erful treasurer to Pedro I (called “Pedro the Cruel”), who added the synagogue to his 


D.F. Ruggles 

Fig. 2.9 Church-Synagogue “El Transito.” (Photo credit: D. Fairchild Ruggles) 

own residence in the Jewish quarter of Toledo in 1360. In 1492, with the expulsion of 
the Jews, the building was given by the Catholic Monarchs, Isabel and Ferdinand, to 
the Order of Calatrava, who converted it to use as a church, called the Church of San 
Benito. It later gained the popular name of El Transito (The Assumption of Mary). 
It remained as a church until the early nineteenth century when it served variously 
as army barracks and as a monastery, until in 1877 it was declared a national monu- 
ment. It remained in private hands, however, until 1970 when it was acquired by the 
Spanish government and made into the National Museum of Judeo-Spanish Art. 

The synagogue served its intended Jewish community for less than 150 years, 
whereas it was used as a church for more than 300 years. But in this monument, the 
prior claim of Jews (exiled and suppressed in 1492 along with the Muslims) and of 
Jewish heritage has been celebrated by peeling away the later Christian phases of the 
building and restoring it to its original state as a temple. The stucco ornament of the 
upper walls has been lovingly restored, and inscriptions written in both Hebrew and 
Arabic are visible as well as the shield of Castile, in deference to Peter, Samuel’s 
protector (Dodds 1992b). So as not to interrupt the majestic space of the main hall, 
the former women’s gallery, occupying a balcony on the north wall overlooking the 
hall below, has been turned into a museum with wall cases explaining aspects of 
Iberian Jewish life and religious practice. The issue of priority is firmly handled by 
locating the building’s original moment in the era of Samuel Halevi Abulafia. There 

2 The Stratigraphy of Forgetting 


is no mention of Roman or Visigothic remains, which lie under nearly everything in 
Toledo, the former Visigothic capital. 

What is it that permits one church to be materially restored to its earlier state as 
a synagogue, but prevents another (converted from a mosque) from being similarly 
treated? The archaeological display in the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba wishes to 
answer that question by its insistence on an “original” Christian building. But the 
concept of originality is a convenient invention because, whether we think of this 
synagogue in Toledo as original, or in Cordoba whether we regard as original the 
mosque or the Visigothic church, it is always a matter of selecting a layer in the his- 
tory of the built environment that we wish to remember. But the material presence of 
the objects on display in the Cordoba Cathedral-Mosque distracts us from this act 
of human selection and instead attempts to persuade us of a fundamental “under- 
lying” archaeological and historical truth. The stratigraphy of Visigothic, Islamic, 
and Christian traces in the building provide a material record of the rich layering of 
society, layers that rest on ostensibly Western foundations. 

Of course the very concept of “Western” is a construction motivated by cultural 
and political investments. While Spain celebrates its 800 years of Islamic history 
as a unique feature that enriches its culture, it also sees itself as a Western coun- 
try, which requires a rejection of Muslim identity. It claims the Western rubric not 
simply as a post-reconquest phenomenon but in the sense of originally Western, 
which demands the operation of peeling back the layers of Muslim and mosque to 
reveal that pure, “original” layer of Christian and church. The display of gleaming, 
white Visigothic fragments in the Cathedral-Mosque of Cordoba accomplishes this 
(although it conveniently forgets that the sect of early Christianity practiced by the 
Visigoths was later suppressed by the Catholic Church of Rome). The museum dis- 
play of tangible archaeological artifacts is essential for this purpose because it offers 
a factual underpinning to something that is really a political assertion [Note 4]. 

With this, let us turn from facts and artifacts back to narratives and storytelling, 
which is where we began. There is currently a fad for retelling the story of Islamic 
Spain. For example, the video Cities of Light: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain 
(Unity Productions Foundation and Gardner Films 2007) was recently aired in the 
USA and several European countries (I was interviewed on camera for this). The 
best known books in English are probably Maria Menocal’s vivid The Ornament of 
the World (2002) and David Levering Lewis’s less scholarly God’s Crucible (2008), 
and the bookstores in Spain are likewise full of books and historical novels on these 
subjects. Moreover, the taste for “Moorish” themes extends even beyond popular 
imagery to cuisine and other forms of exotic experience: a recent phenomenon is the 
emergence of Moroccan-style tea houses and “Moorish baths,” such as in Cordoba 
and Granada. These are basically spas that offer a steam soak and massage, but in 
an evocative Andalusian setting of colored zellij tile and cusped arches, in the style 
of the Alhambra. In our taste for these, we look wistfully back to Islamic Spain as a 
time when everyone lived together happily: there was no Israel/Palestine struggle for 
cleavage or co-existence, no bombs strapped to the chests of young Muslim martyrs, 
no Guantanamo demonstrating the lie of American civil liberties, no Halliburton 
fattening the bank accounts of elected politicians. It is deeply satisfying, instead, to 


D.F. Ruggles 

imagine a time when a young Arab prince would found Spain’s famous convivencia. 
But although the vision appeals to us on many levels, it doesn’t quite stand up to 
scholarly examination. 

The idea of convivencia (literally cohabitation, but more broadly referring to 
social tolerance) comes from the fact that, historically, the Christian and Jewish 
residents of conquered cities were accorded protection as dhimmis, in exchange for 
moderation with respect to public displays, especially of religion. These obligations 
are outlined in the Pact of c Umar, supposedly drawn up in ca. 637 upon the con- 
quest of Damascus and rewritten and copied multiple times thereafter. The version 
of the treaty given by Ibn c Asakir (1105-1 176) states, in the voice of the Christians 
themselves, that they would promise “to beat the ndkiis [resonant board or bell] only 
gently in [the churches] and not to raise our voices in them chanting; not to shelter 
there, nor in any of our houses, a spy of your enemies; not to build a church, con- 
vent, hermitage, or cell, nor to repair those that are dilapidated, nor assemble in any 
that is in a Muslim quarter, nor in their presence; not to display idolatry, nor invite 
to it, nor show a cross on our churches, nor in any of the roads or markets of the 
Muslims” (Tritton 1970:5-6). 

Islamic Spain had its own version of a submission treaty. The treaty of Tudmir, 
written in 713, similarly stated that the Muslim leader would grant the Visigothic 
ruler Theodoric (Tudmir) freedoms and even a degree of autonomy as long as the 
latter fulfilled certain conditions: “His followers will not be killed or taken pris- 
oner, nor will they be separated from their women and children. They will not be 
coerced in matters of religion, their churches will not be burned, nor will sacred 
objects be taken from the realm, [so long as] he [Tudmir] remains sincere and ful- 
fills the [following] conditions. . .” (Constable 1997; reproduced in Dodds, Menocal 
and Balbale 2008:16). 

These treaties were the strategy of conquerors who sought to impose minority 
rule over a majority of a different faith, knowing that peaceful submission was 
far preferable to a state of continual war. From the perspective of the Christians 
and Jews, subordination was a small price to pay for the benefits of a well- 
ordered and reasonably just government, even if it was run by infidels (Dodds, 
Menocal and Balbale 2008:17). However, at the time, the emir c Abd al-Rahman 
I had no idea that he was crafting a policy of interfaith tolerance. His actions were 
simply those of an astute administrator, careful not to destabilize his minority gov- 
ernment’s rule by threatening its base, a Christian majority. It is only in the modern 
era that we look back and identify this as convivencia, imbuing it with the values of 
mutual respect and tolerance for difference, and the fact that we do so says much 
more about the twentieth and twenty-first centuries’ conflicts and yearnings than 
about the contestations and ethnic polyvalence of the eighth century. The modern 
perspective on Spain’s medieval history is an interpretation that emerges from our 
own political needs. All history is an interpretation — a reinterpretation — of the past. 
It is, after all, a tale told by a human narrator who cares about the storyline. 

So, from history we have the satisfying story of al-Andalus, land of interfaith 
convivencia, and from archaeology we have the insistence on material evidence 
to justify claims to heritage. Both are produced within a political frame. The 
political frame, however, is not only Spanish heritage and the nation’s struggle to 

2 The Stratigraphy of Forgetting 


assert itself as either pluralistic and liberal or essentialist and Christian. I think 
the drama of history and the particularity of archaeology distract our attention 
from the most politically relevant realm of all, which is the powerful realm of 
representation. Spain is a relatively small player in modern Middle Eastern poli- 
tics but because of its 800 years of Islamic-Christian negotiations, conquest, exile, 
and diaspora, it provides an important analogue for East-West relations. In this 
light, medieval Spain serves as a metaphor for the global politics of the modern 
world, and the Cathedral-Mosque functions as a metaphor for medieval Spain — 
and hence the intensity of the disputes over its origins and who can and cannot 
pray there. 


1. The history of the mosque is given in the primary sources, most prominently in al-Maqqari 
(1855-1861, I: 368 and II: 7-11), Gayangos (1840-1843, I: 217-218); also in Ibn c Idhari 
(1948-1951, II: 244, 378). In secondary literature, these sources have been summarized and 
analyzed in Creswell (1932-1940 and 1989). An excellent current analysis is to be found in 
Dodds (1992a). See also Khoury (1996), although see Note 3 below. 

2. All photographs used herein are the property of the author. 

3. H. Terasse made the observation (1932), and K.A.C. Creswell pinpointed Ibn Jubayr as the 
conveyor of the story (Creswell 1989:291). Noha Khoury (1996) and other American scholars 
repeated the assertion, despite conclusive evidence for the prior presence of a church that had 
by then been brought forward by Spanish archaeologists. 

4. This point seems obvious, and yet the outrage provoked by Dr. Nadia Abou El-Haj’s 
(2002) book — asking some of the same questions about the framing of archaeology in 
Israel — indicates the deeply sensitive nature of these issues. 


Abou El-Haj, Nadia. 

2002. Facts on the ground: Archaeological practice and territorial self-fashioning in Israeli 
society. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. 

Asenjo Pelegrina, Juan Jose (Bishop of Cordoba). 

2006. Nota del Arzobispado de Cordoba sobre el uso compartido de la Catedral. http://www. 132/2007-01-03.html. Accessed 18 March 2009. 


2003. Mosque signals Muslims’ return to Spain. BBC News. 10 July, 
pr/fr/-/2/hi/europe/3055377.stm. Accessed 19 March 2009. 

Burnet, Victoria. 

2008. Spain’s many Muslims face dearth of mosques. The New York Times. 16 March. http://www. Accessed 19 March 

Cheddadi, Abdesselam. 

2000. Al-Andalus hasta el siglo XI: rasgos generales y significado. In Las Andalucias, de 
Damasco a Cordoba, 260-271. Paris: Editions Hazan. 

CIA (Central Intelligence Agency). 

2009. The world factbook. 
geos/sp.html#People. Accessed 15 March 2009. 


D.F. Ruggles 

Constable, Olivia R„ ed. 

1997. Medieval Iberia: Readings from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish sources. Philadelphia, PA: 

University of Pennsylvania Press. 

Creswell, K. A. C. 

1932-1940. Early Muslim architecture. Oxford, MA: Clarendon Press. 

1989. A short account of early Muslim architecture, rev. ed. James Allan. Cairo: American 
University in Cairo Press. 

Dodds, Jerrilynn D. 

1992a. The Great Mosque of Cordoba. In Al-Andalus: The art of Islamic Spain, ed. Jerrilynn D. 
Dodds, 1 1-25. New York, NY: Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

1992b. Mudejar tradition and the synagogues of medieval Spain: Cultural identity and cultural 
hegemony. In Convivencia: Jews, Muslims, and Christians in medieval Spain, ed. Vivian B. 
Mann, Jerrilynn Dodds, and Thomas Glick, 113-132. Reprinted, George Braziller Publishers, 

Edwards, John. 

2001. The changing use of worship in Roman and medieval Cordoba. In Destruction and con- 
servation of cultural property, ed. R. Layton, P. Stone, and J. Thomas, 221-235. New York, 
NY: Routledge. 

Fuchs, Dale. 

2006. Pope asked to let Muslims pray in cathedral. The Guardian. 28 Dec. http://www. 

Gayangos, Pascual de. 

1840-1843. History of the Mohammedan dynasties (a loose translation of al-Maqqari, Nafh 
al-tib). 2 vols. London: Oriental Translation Fund. 

Hernandez Gimenez, Felix. 

1975. El alminar de Abd al-Rahman III en la Mezquita Mayor de Cordoba. Genesis y 
repercusiones. Granada: Patronato de la Alhambra. 

Ibn c Idhari. 

1948-1951. Histoire de VAfrique du Nord et de VEspagne musulmane intitulee kitab al-bayan 
al-mughrib, ed. E. Levi-Proven$al and G. S. Colin. 2 vols. E. J. Brill, Leiden, (trans: Fagnan, 
E.). Histoire de VAfrique et de VEspagne, 2 vols. Algiers, 1901-1904. 

Khoury, Noha. 

1996. The meaning of the Great Mosque of Cordoba in the tenth century. Muqarnas 13:80-98. 


1967. Analectes sur Vhistoire et la litterature des arabes d’Espagne (an edition of Nafh al- 
tib), 2 vols, ed. R. Dozy, G. Dugat, L. Krehl, and W. Wright. Originally E. J. Brill, Leiden, 
1855-1861; reprinted London: Oriental Press. 

Marfll, Pedro. 

n.d. Arqueologla en la Mezquita de Cordoba, 
mezquita/mezqui.htm. Accessed 16 Sept. 2010. 

Nash, Elizabeth. 

2007. Spanish bishops fear rebirth of Islamic kingdom. News America Media, 13 Jan. 
3765c363ff7bde. Accessed 19 March 2009. 

Nieto-Cumplido, Manuel. 

1991. Historia de la Iglesia en Cordoba: Reconquista y restauracion (1146-1326). Cordoba: 
Monte de Piedad y Caja de Ahorros de Cordoba. 

Noueihed, Lin. 

2007. Bin Laden vows revenge on “Infidel” Musharraf. Reuters, 20 Sep. 
article/topNews/idUSL2041722020070920?sp=true. Accessed 15 March 2009. 

Ocana Jimenez, Manuel. 

1942. La Basilica de San Vicente et la Gran Mezquita de Cordoba: Nuevo examen de los textos. 
Al-Andalus 7/2:347-366. 

2 The Stratigraphy of Forgetting 


Recio Mateo, Luis. 

2005. San Vicente, en la Mezquita-Catedral. Cordoba. 20 Jan. 
noticias/noticia.asp?pkid= 1 6544 1 

Red Cross. 

2006. World disasters report. 

Ruggles, D. Fairchild. 

2004. Mothers of a hybrid dynasty: Race, genealogy, and acculturation in al-Andalus. The 
Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 34: 65-94. 

Simons, Marlise. 

2004. Spain is seeking to integrate growing Muslim population. The New York Times. 24 Oct. 
Terrasse, Henri. 

1932. L’Art hispano-mauresque des origins au XHIe siecle. Paris: G. van Ouest. 

Tritton, A. S. 

1970. The caliphs and their non-Muslim subjects : A critical study of the covenant of c Umar. 
London: Frank Cass & Co. 

Chapter 3 

Aestheticized Geographies of Conflict: 

The Politicization of Culture and the Culture 
of Politics in Belfast’s Mural Tradition 

Alexandra Hartnett 


A culture war has been fought on the walls of Belfast. Factions which had long 
been accustomed to voicing their dissent through violence and fear-mongering no 
longer have the openly public support to back their campaigns of bigotry and 
hatred via the gun [Note 1], Instead, those who still seek to express their dis- 
sent over the Northern Ireland issue have found alternative methods by which 
they can voice their opinion. The re-opening of the devolved legislature for the 
Northern Ireland Assembly has re-opened a dialogue at the political level; on 
the ground, however, where political assertions are embedded in social prac- 
tice, “political” communities express their cultural authority (in a way that is 
no less critical although more intriguingly subversive) through the production of 
mural art. 

As a local tradition, mural painting began a century ago as part of triumphal 
celebrations of a seventeenth-century colonial military victory that signaled the 
Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland. As a distinct form of material culture, murals 
were politically charged and “owned” by a segment of society that was economi- 
cally and politically dominant in Northern Ireland. As such, they were used as an 
important dynamic in the process of legitimating that power. Following the growing 
violence that surrounded “The Troubles” of the 1970s and 1980s, this ownership 
came under dispute as nationalist muralists employed the same medium for their 
own dissenting purposes. The murals were therefore part of an active and violent 
conflict and were rooted in their contemporary political contexts. The mural subject 
matter at this time — both nationalist/republican and unionist/loyalist — reflected the 
violence endemic in everyday life by reproducing it in murals art as communities 
used them to create space and to claim the landscape; they served as a means to 
express domination and resistance as well as legitimation and dissent, depending on 
the painter and the audience. 

A. Hartnett (El) 

Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA 

H. Silverman (ed.), Contested Cultural Heritage, 

DOI 10.1007/978-l-4419-7305-4_3, © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 201 1 



A. Hartnett 

Since then, the role that these murals played and their subject matter have been 
transformed in parallel but distinct traditions within the sectarian communities in 
which they are most commonly found. Over time, as the peace process has grad- 
ually lowered the simmering tensions in the North, the murals themselves have 
become the story. Among other things, they have been the focus of academic 
projects (e.g., Hartnett 2009; Jarman 1998; Santino 1999) and popular publications 
(the Bill Rolston series) and even the subject of a Hollywood documentary (a forth- 
coming documentary by actor Vince Vaughan). They have escaped the boundaries 
of their communities through the very public portal of news agencies that seem 
to revel in showcasing their broadcasts in front of dramatic gable murals depict- 
ing double-storied, balaclava-clad figures toting guns and looming threateningly. 
The murals and their audiences’ reading of them therefore created a unique land- 
scape that evoked an undertone of violence that was muted locally by the traffic 
of everyday life; however, they also have generated a singular touristic experience 
that prompted The Independent's, travel writer, Simon Calder, to award the Belfast 
murals the UK’s best tourist attraction above all others in 2007 [Note 2]. In light of 
this notoriety and touristic allure, the more daring visitors to Belfast traipse up the 
Falls Road and down the Shankill, camera in hand, while their less energetic coun- 
terparts take Black Taxi tours or big, yellow sightseeing buses that negotiate the 
narrow streets of sectarian neighborhoods to participate in conflict tourism, a thriv- 
ing business in Belfast that capitalizes on peoples’ fascination with the shadows of 

In 1996, a mural went up on Oakman Street in the nationalist Falls area that 
read, “History is written by the winner” (Fig. 3.1). Around that time, in the early 
years of the peace process, murals in this area began to depict fewer reflections of 
violence and more that drew on Irish cultural heritage: mythology, language, and 
history. As such, it would seem that the nationalist muralists began a new tradi- 
tion by which they sought to own the past, their histories of defeats, and to win 
their present by exposing their heritage on mural walls. This was predominantly a 
nationalist/republican tradition while the dominant theme in unionist/loyalist murals 
remained the “men-with-guns” paramilitary archetype. More recently, however, 
with the true threat of peace looming ever closer, images that recreate the vio- 
lence of the past are considered to be distasteful while those that highlight heritage 
are lauded. The state’s newly formed “Re-Imaging Communities Programme” pays 
communities to paint over their paramilitary murals with depictions of local his- 
tories. The stakes, however, are equally high for the depictions of violence and 
this more subtle contestation of heritage. Civic agencies are actively encouraging 
this new discourse that sets into opposition local histories without acknowledging 
that they are reproducing the same paradigms of difference that have marked the 
Catholic and Protestant communities for generations. 

This has in part contributed to one of the most startling transformations that the 
murals have undergone. They, as a material tradition, have become a critical locus of 
political commentary and are therefore an eminently powerful site for the produc- 
tion of meaning. Indeed, I would argue that gable murals have become the single 
most essential site of discourse in sectarian Belfast and are therefore a key element 

3 Aestheticized Geographies of Conflict 


Fig. 3.1 Nationalist mural, “History is written by the winner” (Photo: Alexandra Hartnett) 

of a deeply historical social practice. They continue to be produced and reproduced; 
painted and defaced; and imagined and replaced because they are the medium by 
which this discourse continues. More than that, however, it must be acknowledged 
that, because murals are historically crucial sites of politics, history, religion, etc., 
if one wants to make a claim in sectarian Belfast, one must actively work within 
the social practice of mural-making; one must “deal in murals” to be heard and 
acknowledged. As a distinctive material tradition and like any other important mon- 
ument, they are therefore repeatedly called upon for ideological, political, and social 
purposes as the dominant local forum of claims and contestation [Note 3], 

These murals serve as both agents and subjects of history. As agents, their role 
is active and they are used to create distinct histories that are presented in oppo- 
sition to competing visions of the past in order to create politicized space. In the 
latter guise, they are produced as a result of a series of historical and cultural events 
that distinguishes them as artifacts that are as tangible as any other material culture 
form that is distinct in time and space. Because of this duality as both art and arti- 
fact (cf. Jarman 1998:81), it is first necessary to address the local colonial processes 
that preceded and gave rise to the distinct cultural formations of mural-making in 
Northern Ireland. This also serves to highlight particular historical hot zones that 
are frequently used as fodder for the mural subject. The first part of this chap- 
ter will, therefore, touch on distinct historical moments that influenced the social 
complexities of Northern Ireland, moments that shaped the culture of heritage. 


A. Hartnett 

The second part of this chapter addresses, directly, mural-making in Belfast and 
how it developed out of the decorative traditions that were erected in celebration 
of the Battle of the Boyne in unionist communities and alongside political action 
in nationalist communities. The murals are not merely artworks but are politicized 
artifacts that create space as much as they define it. The final part of this chapter 
discusses the “Re-Imaging” of paramilitary murals with those depicting heritage, 
leading to the question: As a part of Belfast’s heritage in and of themselves, whose 
voice do they now represent and how authentic is that voice? Who gets to own the 
past and who, really, is the “winner” of heritage creation? 

Here, I stress the choice inherent in a community’s heritage. I argue that 
heritage — that ephemeral essence that even David Lowenthal (1985) declined to 
define — is a subjective force in Northern Ireland that is shaped by contemporary 
actors in distinct groups in order to define themselves not in the way that they were 
but in the way that they are, in the way that they choose to see themselves today. 
This does not make it any less real or valid; instead, heritage is a subjective phe- 
nomenon that is experienced and, potentially, manipulated rather than an objective 
force that impartially defines a people. In choosing to highlight distinct aspects and 
moments of their chosen heritage in the murals, the communities that search for 
authenticity in Belfast have set themselves in opposition to each other by the very 
nature of their self-representation, designed as it is to validate their political stances 
and to accentuate the righteousness of their presence, their lived experience. In this 
case, heritage is an extension of the political. 

Political Aspirations: A History Behind 
Mural-Making in Belfast 

The English could nominally claim a presence in Ireland from 1169, when Cambrian 
Anglo-Normans were invited into a political struggle over the Irish kingship in order 
to make their fortunes as mercenaries-with-benefits (see Flanagan 1989; Frame 
1998; Graham 2000; Orpen 1914; Rolston 1995a). Their place was consolidated 
when Henry II followed and incorporated much of Ireland into his feudal king- 
ship. Although English power in Ireland fluctuated over the following centuries, 
this authority was consolidated in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries during the 
Tudor and Cromwellian reconquests that sought to “civilize” the Irish (as well as 
the Catholic descendents of the Anglo-Normans, the “Old English”) by introducing 
new religious reforms and old-fashioned persecutions into the colonial program of 
governance, including the shipment of thousands of intractable Catholics to the New 
World as slaves (Courbage 1997:172; see also Barnard 1979; Canny 1989; Canny 
2001; Ellis 1985; Lennon 1994). 

During this time, the colonial government planted thousands of English and 
Lowland Scottish “undertakers” or colonists across the country, perhaps as many 
as 100,000 by 1641, 30,000 of whom settled in Ulster (Ohlmeyer 1998:139). 
Catholic-owned property was confiscated and many of the native Irish were either 
forcefully transplanted to marginal land, driven there through penury, or were 

3 Aestheticized Geographies of Conflict 


allowed to remain on Protestant estates in order to work the land for its new own- 
ers, many of whom were former soldiers who fought for the Crown in Ireland. 
Sir Arthur Chichester (1563-1625) was among this group; he was granted large 
tracts of land in Ulster, including that which surrounded the twelfth-century Anglo- 
Norman Belfast Castle, following the Nine Years War (1594-1603). The town of 
Belfast was incorporated by the Crown in 1613 and was populated predominantly 
by Protestant settlers interested in commercial enterprises surrounding the rise of 
industrial capital. 

The defeat of King James II (1633-1701) by his son-in-law, William III of 
Orange (1650-1702), at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, marked the ascendency 
of the landowning Protestants of English and Scottish origins over Irish Catholics, 
opening the door to exclusionary policies forbidding them from inheriting land if 
there was a Protestant heir available; practicing their religion freely and openly; 
obtaining a Catholic education; holding public office, voting, or practicing law; 
teaching; carrying a sword; owning a horse worth over five pounds; and a myriad 
of other freedoms. These Penal Laws were ratified in the English-controlled Irish 
parliament between 1695 and 1759 and they were set in place to secure Protestant 
interests in Ireland (see Cohen 1997; McGrath 1996). 

However, in counterpoint to the Protestant ascendancy, a modern Irish nation- 
alism was emerging that began among the Anglo-Irish elite with Henry Grattan 
in the late eighteenth century. Nationalist sentiment expanded with the revolution- 
ary efforts of Theobald Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen [Note 4] and it was 
popularized by Daniel O’Connell, who promoted a peaceful campaign for Catholic 
Emancipation. It was later politicized by Charles Stewart Parnell, who argued for 
home rule in the 1880s. And it culminated with the Easter Rising of 1916, when 
Patrick Pearse and others led several thousand men and women to seize the General 
Post Office in Dublin to proclaim the independence of Ireland. This rebellion was 
brutally quelled by the British Army and its leaders were executed; however, these 
men and women are widely considered to be martyrs and have been promoted 
as such by those who took part in the republican movement in Northern Ireland. 
Images taken from these moments of Irish nationalism therefore feature promi- 
nently on republican murals. They are, in fact, used to draw a direct link between 
the revolutionary moments of the past and those of the present. 

By the early years of the twentieth century this unrest that had periodically 
shaken the foundations of the Protestant Ascendency through the rebellious activ- 
ities of Irish nationalists (both Catholic and Protestant) over the previous two 
centuries made the prospect of Irish independence inevitable. The vulnerability that 
the landowning elite experienced in light of the rise of republicanism and their own 
decline in power in Ireland meant that their celebrations of Protestant identity and 
unionist ideals took on additional importance to their own sense of community and 
spurred them into “an all-class alliance whose differences were to be subsumed in 
the interests of the survival of the state against any enemies, internal or external, 
real or imaginary” (Rolston 2003:v). This community, which was already suffer- 
ing massive insecurities due to fears of abandonment by the parliament in London, 
was made even more vulnerable on the first day of the Battle of the Somme (July 


A. Hartnett 

1, 1916), during which the Thirty-six (Ulster) Division suffered more than 5,000 
casualties — almost half of which were fatalities — during the first 2 days of combat. 
This devastation contributed to more general fears of ethnic extinction and abandon- 
ment as, increasingly uneasy and insular, they felt betrayed by the same government 
for which they had willingly sacrificed their young men. 

At its essence, during the early decades of the twentieth century and after cen- 
turies of disenfranchisement, the largely Catholic population of the South did not 
want to be British but instead wanted to live in a state where they could cele- 
brate their culture with impunity and express their ideological and political views 
freely; conversely, the largely Protestant population of the North did not want to be 
subsumed within a Gaelic counterculture but instead wanted to retain their British 
identity and follow British law (Boal and Livingstone 1984:163). After a protracted 
struggle that made heroes of some and villains of others, English and Irish nego- 
tiators came to the only solution that they saw possible and, in 1921, the Act of 
Partition created the Free State of Ireland. As a Free State, Ireland remained a part 
of the Commonwealth until 1949, when it declared itself to be the Republic of 
Ireland. Six of the eight counties in Ulster that had a Protestant majority remained 
part of Great Britain, but they accepted a devolved parliament that they themselves 
administered in Belfast until it was suspended in 1972 with the escalation of what 
is commonly called “The Troubles.” 

By the time of Partition in 1921, Belfast was already heavily segregated along 
religious lines. A steady stream of settlers had been drawn to it over the previous 
centuries, and by the early 1800s, with the onset of the industrial revolution, its 
prosperity was undeniable. This newfound wealth was tied to Belfast’s dominance 
in the linen industry as well as other manufacturing enterprises that were associated 
with the rising consumption of manufactured goods that accompanied the expan- 
sion of European colonial power around the world. The settlers in Belfast were 
predominantly Protestant and the city was thought of as a stronghold that was “prac- 
tically reserved” for them (Courbage 1997:184). In what has been called a “curious 
reversal of roles” (Boal and Livingstone 1984:163), however, nineteenth-century 
Irish Catholics were drawn to Belfast just as they were lured to industrial centers in 
England in the hope of finding work. For its established population, both elite and 
working-class Protestants, this influx of Catholic migrants triggered hostility among 
those who feared changes to their way of life, community, and employment oppor- 
tunities. This fear was widespread and is demonstrated through the comments of a 
Dublin lawyer, M. Pointdergast, who said. 

We English Protestants came to this country as conquerors. The gentry here has always 
considered the Catholics as a pack of savages and has treated them as such. . . Now they 
(the Catholics) have become powerful by the force of numbers and by their political rights, 
(quoted in Courbage 1997:181) 

As such, there arose a need to “transform ‘areas where Protestants lived’ into 
‘Protestant areas’,” thereby allowing the people who lived there to claim the land 
through what Neil Jarman has called “the sectarianization of space” (1998:84). 

3 Aestheticized Geographies of Conflict 


The instability of early-nineteenth-century Belfast society was fed by several fac- 
tors: the increasing segregation along with Protestant insecurities that surrounded 
the inevitability of Partition; the certainty that the British government was easing its 
colonial program of control in Ireland; the fear that the Protestant community was 
possibly facing retribution from Catholic Ireland; and the growing population of 
Catholics in Belfast who were becoming increasingly resentful of the religious dis- 
crimination that was held against them. In Belfast, this volatility manifested itself in 
violence and, by 1857, public disorder had escalated to full-out rioting between the 
two communities that lasted weeks and drove families out of their homes, prompting 
the Commissioners of Inquiry to conclude in the following year: 

Since the commencement of the late riots. . . the districts have become exclusive, and by 

regular systematized movements on both sides, the few Catholic inhabitants of the Sandy 

Row district have been obliged to leave it, and the few Protestant inhabitants of the Pound 

district have also been obliged to leave that locality, (quoted in Doherty and Poole 1997:534) 

Seeking shelter in ethnically unified districts during periods of unrest is probably 
a universal instinct, grounded by a compulsion to transform the “imagined commu- 
nity” of Benedict Anderson (1983) into a geopolitical reality. By the 1910s, 59% 
of the city’s residents were living in segregated communities (Boal and Livingstone 
1984: 164). While these discrete areas in Belfast offered greater protection, they 
also proved to be more easily identifiable and therefore more vulnerable to attacks 
as communities became known as either Catholic or Protestant. Neighborhoods 
became enclaves, cut off from other communities as they drew in on themselves 
for succor, protection, and a sense of shared identity. This geopolitical isolation- 
ism served to separate the communities as quotidian interaction — at the butcher’s, 
the chemist’s, or the grocer’s — was diminished, taking away the commonalities that 
were shared by both communities and reducing even further the possibility of inte- 
gration. This spatial segregation reached its apogee in 1969, when the British Army 
erected the first “peace wall” between the Protestant Shankill Road and the Catholic 
Falls Road in West Belfast. Since then, communities have become consolidated by 
high walls, chain-linked fences, barbed wire, and highways that are designed to 
keep trouble in its place, all the while with the hope that separation will lead to 
indifference and indifference will lead to peace. 

Uneasy Neighbors: Religion and Politics 

Religion is the most common frame of reference used to define the two communi- 
ties. It demarcates cultural difference and is used as a convenience to define each 
of the “others” in Northern Ireland. It does not lead to a comfortable and easy 
discussion, however, because there is much more than religion at play here. To 
reduce the distinctions between communities solely to their religious affiliation is to 
undermine the inherent complexity of the situation and its participants. Instead, the 
conflict in Northern Ireland “can best be thought of as ethnic, national, and political 
in nature, rather than simply religious” (Santino 1999:517). It can also be thought 
of as cultural. Many people today would have a hard time mounting a verbal attack 


A. Hartnett 

on the other side based on purely ideological arguments. However, “Protestant” and 
“Catholic” will not be going away any time soon as markers of identity because this 
is how the communities refer to themselves and to each other, and it has therefore 
become the dominant archetype through which the rest of the world accesses the 
conflict. At a fundamental social level, religion is still an essential element to these 
communities because it is through religion that communities are organized. Social 
groups and sports teams tend to be denominationally specific or, if not, they exist in 
communities that are ideologically grounded. Indeed, “(r)eligion plays a crucial role 
in the identification process” of people in Northern Ireland (Mitchell 2005:5) but no 
one is arguing over competing doctrines. As religion continues to be conflated with 
ethnicity (e.g., Boal and Livingstone 1984:164), and ethnicity with culture, we are 
stuck with religion as the overarching paradigm of identity. 

This is in part because there is a history of approaching the conflict in Ireland as 
a political struggle wrapped in ideological difference. William Petty (1623-1687), 
who was Oliver Cromwell’s chief surveyor of land that was earmarked for confisca- 
tion, was among the first to differentiate the people living in Ireland by their religion 
rather than their ethnicity. From that time, census reports paid close attention to the 
population ratio in the hope that Ireland would become a Protestant nation rather 
than a Catholic one, its people loyal to the Crown rather than the Pope (Courbage 
1997). However, Petty himself did not hesitate to lay out his aims for the people of 
Ireland and he did so by stressing ethnicity, not religion, when he wrote, 

. . . without costly armies, the government can know no rest until most of the population has 

been made English, either by bringing in Englishmen or by sending out Irishmen, (cited in 

Courbage 1997:174) 

At that point, to be English was to be Protestant; to be Irish was to be Catholic 
[Note 5]. Since then, the tie between Catholicism and Irish nationalism — and the 
more radical republicanism — as a cultural construction has become reified in the 
national consciousness. “Catholic” is therefore commonly used as a catchall to 
encapsulate both religion and politics in very general terms. “Republican” is used 
to describe people — Irish Catholics — who seek unification with the rest of Ireland 
through any means possible, including physical force. Nationalists — Irish Catholic 
in their heritage — believe in the unification of Ireland as a single nation with 32 
provinces; they, however, do not always support the republican ideals that espouse 
the use of any means necessary to achieve their ends, violence included. Not all 
Catholics are nationalists and some would prefer, in fact, to remain part of Great 
Britain. Furthermore, many totemic “Irish Catholics” have stepped away from reli- 
gion except as a marker of identity. Recent Irish attitudes toward religion in general 
and the Catholic Church in particular show the disillusionment and a distancing of 
many people from the Church in light of the exposure of abuses and corruption. 
This shift in Catholic attitudes has entered the consciousness of hard-line loyalists 
but not yet to the extent that it eliminates their overall impression of “otherness” and 
the certainty in the mainstream media that religion still lies at the heart of the matter 
[Note 6]. 

Others have interpreted religious iconography in nationalist murals as competing 
for cultural dominance with republicanism (e.g., Kenney 1998:157) or as a geo- 
graphical marker of identity (e.g., Santino 1999:523). For many nationalists, religion 

3 Aestheticized Geographies of Conflict 


has become less of a belief and more of just another marker of Irish identity, much 
like the practice of naming a child Sean rather than John or wearing a Claddagh ring. 
Until recently, for example, a large mural of the Virgin Mary dominated the Lower 
Falls Road. The republican muralists I spoke with scoffed at this particular religious 
mural, saying, “The Church put that up, not us!,” and they did not shy away from 
showing their disdain toward the Catholic Church as an institution which, they said, 
abandoned the republican cause when its soldiers sought its absolution and support 
during the Troubles [Note 7], 

On the Protestant side, this community has long been divided internally and, in 
the eighteenth century, emigration to the Americas was seen as the best option for 
many Scots-Ulster Presbyterians who were marginalized and even persecuted by 
mainstream Protestantism (Courbage 1997:175; Griffin 2000:266). Indeed, they are 
considered by some to have been a “dangerous rival for supremacy in the kingdom” 
and as such were excluded from positions of power in Ireland and elsewhere to 
the extent that they have recently been referred to as having had “a second-class 
status in a second-class kingdom” (Griffin 2000:274, 287). Loyalists, who in gen- 
eral are descendants of fundamentalist Protestantism, condone violent action if it is 
used to further their cause. Before loyalty to the Crown, however, the loyalist is first 
committed to the defense of “his people” in an active construction of a distinct cul- 
ture, unique in the UK (Moore and Sanders 2002:10). While their chief adversary 
has always been the Catholic community, the concessions that have been made to 
Irish nationalists over the twentieth century marked the English as “arch-betrayers,” 
resulting in the community drawing into itself more tightly after witnessing its peo- 
ple, its culture, and its traditions threatened on all sides by the world around it 
(Moore and Sanders 2002:12). Unlike loyalists, unionists for the most part accept 
that Catholics have a role in Britain so long as they are not anti-British (Moore 
and Sanders 2002:14). They consider themselves to be firmly British and they see 
religion and ethnicity as less significant than political beliefs and shared principles. 

As Mitchell (2005:8) notes, “(r)eligion acts as an ethnic marker amongst those 
who claim a religious affiliation, but who neither practice nor believe.” As a means 
of identification, therefore, religion is unlikely to fade away as a defining trait 
any time soon. Identity in Northern Ireland is multi-faceted and embedded with 
deep-seeded prejudices that linger, intact, at odds with the process of peace and 
reconciliation despite the best intentions [Note 8]. Religion, therefore, while an 
underlying element of the conflict and an undeniable marker of identity, is rarely 
explored in the murals of Belfast except, in both sides, as a demonstration of 

Making Murals: From Celebration to Intimidation 

Peace was rarely easy in Belfast. As far back as July 12, 1813, violence sur- 
rounded the parades that celebrated the Protestant Ascendency in an Ireland that was 
undergoing rapid social change in the wake of the Act of Union in 1801. Yearly, the 
Protestant population commemorated the Battle of the Boyne as well as the lifting 
of the Siege of Derry (in 1689), staging lavish celebrations and parades in public and 
throwing balls, dinners, teas, and special church services in private. This took place 


A. Hartnett 

each July and August as early as 1796 following the creation of the Orange Order, 
a Masonesque association that was founded with the protection of those interests 
in mind (Beiner 2007:371; Fitzpatrick 2002:61). Over the following century, these 
celebrations were usually short-lived, unchallenged, and highly structured (Jarman 
1998:84). However, during periods of civic unrest the parades served as a flashpoint 
for protest and violence that still flares up today. 

In celebration, the red, white, and blue of the Union Jack were painted on side- 
walk curbsides and lampposts while images of William of Orange, affectionately 
known as “King Billy,” were painted on cloth banners that were carried by marchers 
and soon jumped to gable walls of the houses that lined the parade routes. William’s 
image has remained for the most part static and instantly recognizable: he sits on 
a white steed while crossing the River Boyne with his sword held aloft in victory, 
much as he is in the 1778 painting by Benjamin West that exemplifies “the Catholic 
cause defeated or at least under control and a nation, Ireland, subdued” (Cullen 
1995:58). The Protestant community thus took shelter in the memory of their single 
most vivid moment of conquest over the Catholic population at that moment when 
they were most vulnerable in the face of the undeniable prospect of an Irish Free 
State; this community chose to valorize and, in turn, mythologize their moment of 
ascendency by splashing the image of “King Billy” across their claimed space in 
order to vanquish, again, the Catholics who lived among them (Fig. 3.2). 

Fig. 3.2 Loyalist mural depicting William of orange defeating King James at the battle of the 
Boyne, 1690. (Photo: Alexandra Hartnett) 

3 Aestheticized Geographies of Conflict 


These early murals of William’s victory at the Boyne did not just mark the space. 
They created it. These murals were developed not only as a celebration of a par- 
ticular colonial moment of the past but also as a contemporary marker of identity 
and entitlement. In areas of contested space, monuments like these marked both 
the land and its people as British. However, there is a fine line between celebra- 
tion and triumphalism. While the parades served as a pageant of commemoration 
to one segment of the population, it came across as an exercise in saber rattling to 
the other. For the Catholics who lived in Belfast, and particularly those who lived 
on the streets through which the parades passed, this brought to mind the abso- 
lute Catholic defeat at the same event and the ensuing Penal Laws that persecuted 
Catholics in Ireland. Therefore, during the parade season of July and August, the 
parade routes that traversed Catholic neighborhoods were often seen (and remain) 
as deliberate provocations that were intended either to reinforce the superiority of 
one segment of the population or to incite the other to violence. Recently and per- 
haps most notoriously this has occurred along Ormeau Road in Belfast, at Drumcree 
in Portadown, and in the Bogside in Derry. It is therefore important to keep in mind 
that “(p)laces are not inert containers. They are politicized, culturally relative, his- 
torically specific, local and multiple constructions” that are experienced differently 
by different groups (Rodman 2003:205). It is no coincidence that many people who 
live in Northern Ireland choose to take their holidays during these months, often in 
the Republic or in Scotland, in order to avoid the civil unrest that seems inevitable 
in the summer months. 

The celebrations that gave rise to the murals of King Billy in Protestant neighbor- 
hoods had their counterpart in Catholic society. Nationalist parades celebrated St. 
Patrick’s Day, the Easter Rising (1916), Bloody Sunday (1972), and the Republican 
Hunger Strikes (1981). However, a major distinction separated these traditions. For 
years the Protestant “theatrical calendar” (Fitzpatrick 2002:61) was staged in public 
areas. They were institutionally ritualized and unchallenged, highly structured and 
officially sanctioned. This open tradition of triumphalism existed in direct opposi- 
tion to the nationalist celebrations that were geographically restricted to Catholic 
strongholds and were actively repressed by the state (Jarman 1998:84, 2003:93-94; 
Santino 1999:517). Murals were unwelcome accessories. Unlike the built environ- 
ment in Protestant areas, which were colorfully decorated with bunting and murals 
of King Billy, the walls in nationalist communities were left bare for many decades, 
even through their own private celebrations. 

During the early years of “the Troubles” the Irish Republican Army (IRA) started 
to use graffiti as part of a hidden-in-plain sight discourse. While the spray-painting 
of sectarian identifiers such as Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), Irish National 
Liberation Army (INLA), etc. can be considered a claiming of the landscape, the 
use of graffiti is also a way to disseminate information. A 1969 letter to the Belfast 
Telegraph said as much: 

These slogans were not put up by a lot of young hotheads. They are there for a purpose — 
and I think everyone who reads them will know quite clearly what the purpose is. (quoted 
in Boal and Livingstone 1984:170) 


A. Hartnett 

It was a medium that was used to direct activities as well as to issue warn- 
ings aimed at potential informants, promising certain retaliation if the republican 
cause were undermined by collusion with the British Army (Boal and Livingstone 
1984:172). As a mode of communication, it is still in use today. “All drug dealers 
will be shot” was one particular piece of graffiti that I saw just off the Shankill Road 
during an internal loyalist gang war several years ago. More recently, “T.V. license 
men beware” featured prominently, perhaps demonstrating why Belfast has one of 
the highest incidences of television license evasion in the UK [Note 9]. As such, 
graffiti can be understood as “a twilight zone of communication” (Reisner 1971:1, 
quoted in Ley and Cybriwsky 1974:492) that is a way for the disenfranchised — or 
the outlawed — to express themselves freely in otherwise proscribed circumstances. 

In the midst of the Troubles and in the eyes of British authority, republican graffiti 
was seen as an instrument of anticolonial discourse — an overt display of Catholic 
disorder — and “peacemakers” reacted harshly. For example, in 1980, a 16-year old 
boy was shot and killed by the police while he was painting republican graffiti on 
a wall (Jarman 1998:81). A decade earlier, in 1970, two men had been given a 6- 
month prison sentence for painting the Irish tricolor flag on a wall. This contrasted 
starkly against the ubiquity of the Union Jack in Protestant areas. However, to raise 
the Irish flag was more or less an act of resistance, a nod toward sedition against the 
British Crown and against Ulster, since it was illegal to fly any flag but the Union 
Jack between 1954 and 1987, when the Flags and Emblems Act was first enacted 
and then repealed. Punishment was a fine of £500 or up to 5 years in jail. According 
to Santino (1999:523), however, sectarian graffiti is now dissuaded by Republican 
leaders because it runs “counter to its claim of fighting a legitimate war effort.” 
Graffiti is inherently subversive and, since many of the founders of the Provisional 
IRA are now legitimate politicians — Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and 
President of Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams, for example — the language of subversion 
delegitimizes their stance as the official opposition. 

Unlike the writing of graffiti, which is more akin to a hit-and-run kind of subver- 
sion, it was the early 1980s before uncontested nationalist murals were painted in 
Catholic strongholds and the choice of medium was undoubtedly seen as a repub- 
lican complement to the long-standing loyalist tradition (Rolston 1995b). Unlike 
their unionist counterparts, however, the earliest republican murals did not depict 
a moment of triumph (indeed they lost the Battle of the Boyne); instead, they 
focused on the trauma of a particular form of martyrdom which Guy Beiner calls 
the “triumph of defeat” (2007:375): death by hunger strike. Hunger strikes had been 
valorized by Irish suffragettes and political prisoners in the early twentieth century, 
usually in the name of political rights or prison reform, and in 1981 republican 
inmates embarked on a hunger strike as a means of protest against the removal 
of their status as political prisoners in “The Maze,” the Long Kesh prison, where 
incarceration without trial was common. By denying the prisoners political status, 
the British administration in Ireland removed the ideological root of republican vio- 
lence and retooled it as thuggish criminality, just as they did in the 1910s before the 
South seceded and again in the early 1970s. This action was directed solely at the 
nationalist community (Moen 2000:2-3). As Moen writes. 

3 Aestheticized Geographies of Conflict 


By openly targeting those prisoners who most clearly epitomized the political nature of 
the conflict in the North, the British government facilitated a change in how the conflict 
was publicly presented and understood in the long term. ... In this broader, social sense, 
criminalization attempted to delegitimize the political motivation of anti-state activists and 
determined to create a moral distance between the state and other protagonists in the 
conflict. (2000:4) 

However, one of the most prominent hunger strikers, Bobby Sands, is quoted on 
murals as having said, “Never will they label our liberation struggle as criminal.” In 
all, 10 men starved themselves to deaths in the quest to be acknowledged as polit- 
ical prisoners rather than as criminals, but not before Sands was elected to British 
Parliament as a Sinn Fein representative for Northern Ireland. They raised interna- 
tional awareness to “the cause” and did so in a way that afforded themselves the 
mantle of activist rather than terrorist [Note 10]. Their public statement made this 

We, the Republican Prisoners of War. . . demand as a right, political recognition and that 
we be accorded the status of political prisoners. We claim this right as captured combatants 
in the continuing struggle for national liberation and self-determination, (quoted in Moen 

Likenesses of these men — these heroes to the republican community — were 
taken from photographs and were among the earliest murals to be painted on the 
gable walls of Catholic neighborhoods. In an environment where “good” walls are 
regularly repainted with new images, a mural of Bobby Sands is a perennial fixture 
on the side of the Sinn Fein office on the Falls Road (Fig. 3.3). 

Significantly, the incarceration of republicans who were willing to sacrifice 
everything for the cause became an integral part of the heritage of the national- 
ist community of Northern Ireland. They were thrown together in what turned out 
to be a remarkable environment for the intensive study of Irish culture, facets of 
which had been all but lost in many Catholic families over successive generations. 
Those who knew the Irish language taught others; those who were familiar with 
Irish mythology told stories like the Gaelic seanachi , the storytellers of old; and a 
prison newsletter focused on Irish or Celtic culture as much as it did republican ide- 
als. Although there are exceptions, all of the republican muralists with whom I have 
spoken over the last decade have spent time in the Maze; it is there that they learned 
of Irish history, mythology, and language in the process of honing their republican 
ideals, and it was in prison that many of them first picked up a paintbrush. The expe- 
rience of jail as a rite of passage for republicans therefore became a badge of honor 
rather than a veil of shame, and it has remained in the forefront of the life expe- 
riences of these muralists [Note 11], Between 1969 and 2001, about 3,500 people 
were killed in the conflict, a startling proportion in a population of only 1 .6 million. 
Of these, 1 ,523 people were Catholic, 1,287 were Protestant, and just over 500 were 
members of the British Army. A further 120 people were killed in campaigns that 
targeted England; 82 in the Republic of Ireland; and 14 elsewhere in Europe. Of 
those, 1,854 people were non-combatants; 155 people were under 16 years; and 193 
others were over 60 years (for ongoing statistics, see 


A. Hartnett 

Fig. 3.3 Bobby Sands mural on the side of the Sinn Fein office of the Falls Road. (Photo: 
Alexandra Hartnett) 

During this time, sectarian military activity was reaching a height of violence 
on both sides of the ideological divide while splinter groups and their offshoots 
crowded the sectarian alphabet soup. On the republican side there existed the 
Provisional IRA, the Real IRA, the Continuity IRA, the INLA, and the IPLO 
(Irish People’s Liberation Organization). On the loyalist side were the UFF, the 
UDA (Ulster Defense Association), the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force), the Red 
Hand Commandos, and the Red Hand Defenders. There were also the UDR (Ulster 
Defense Regiment), the B-Specials, the LVF (Loyalist Volunteer Force), the UYM 
(Ulster Young Militants), and the YCV (Young Citizens’ Volunteers). Any fervent 
ideologue or ambitious thug with a tough stomach could find a place in one of these 
organizations, each of which had its own acceptable level of violence as well as a 
code of honor that couched criminal activities in ideological rhetoric. At times, the 
rhetoric served as a verbal balaclava wherein the organizations used politics and reli- 
gion as an excuse to carry out bigotry and criminal activity in the open through the 
high-end operation of organized crime that revolved around the drug trade, money 
laundering, and weapons dealing [Note 12). 

This sharp increase in violence and the politicization of everyday life led to a 
deviation in the mural tradition in Protestant areas where loyalists pulled their talents 
away from the triumphal murals of King Billy and over to more topical images that 
they felt related directly to their own increasingly sectarian convictions. While King 

3 Aestheticized Geographies of Conflict 


Fig. 3.4 An unfinished loyalist mural of a balaclava-clad gunman in “The Village” in South 
Belfast. (Photo: Alexandra Hartnett) 

Billy was still present, particularly during the parade season, intimidating figures 
with black masks and large guns began to appear in political neighborhoods while 
faces were only revealed after death, in memorial murals (Fig. 3.4). 

These paramilitary murals were far more prevalent in loyalist communities than 
in republican ones. Typically, working-class Protestant communities have been 
“claimed” by particular loyalist factions, and the murals served as clear demarca- 
tions of turf to competing loyalist sectarian terrorist organizations and they were 
appreciated as such. While taking photographs in “The Village,” a Protestant com- 
munity in South Belfast, I was offered comments with a wink and a smile, such 
as “That’s a good one, isn’t it?” Instead of feeling intimidated some people found 
the images comforting — an assurance to this enclave that a higher power, of sorts, 
was standing guard over them and that the hidden figures behind the masks — behind 
the murals — were protectors rather than aggressors. For others, however, including 
people who were part of the community, these murals were unwelcome when they 
portrayed armed and masked “paras” who loomed in an effort to intimidate, subdue, 
and overwhelm their audience [Note 13]. In June 2000, for example, an anonymous 
pensioner who lived on the Protestant Shankill Road wrote to the Belfast Telegraph, 

I would like to know who gave the vandals permission to put up all of the murals and paint 
my country’s colours on the streets of the Shankill area to be walked on.. . . Do I want to 
see my road (painted) with murals? No. Did anyone ask me? No. ... In 30 years, I was 
never frightened in my community, but I am now. This marking out of territory for various 
groupings will result in the death of someone, possibly a person just like me. When is this 


A. Hartnett 

madness going to end? If this is peace, give me conflict where the enemy doesn't live next 

door. For obvious reasons, I must remain anonymous. ( Belfast Telegraph, June 24, 2000) 

The pensioner was referring to a territorial dispute that was raging within the 
UFF/UDA in the summer of 2000. The leader of the UFF, Johnny “Mad Dog” Adair, 
had a list; if your name was on it you were highly encouraged to move, which is what 
200 Protestant families did posthaste. Under his leadership, the UFF embarked on 
an unprecedented criminal rampage that led to a feud within his own organization. 
The general impression in the city was that the police were sitting back and letting 
the loyalist paramilitaries whittle down their numbers all on their own. Nightly, 
reports of murdered or knee-capped members were detailed on the news as each day 
saw an escalation in partisan conflict. During this time, Adair commissioned mural 
artists to cover the walls of the Lower Shankill with sectarian images that were 
designed to claim space, to assert dominance, and to challenge just about everybody 
as he sat in his car and watched the artwork progress. (Needless to say, the artists 
were not very talkative.) These particular murals, then, were representative of a 
grab for power that proclaimed a very particular group identity in the midst of a 
contested landscape that was witness to daily episodes of sectarian violence. The 
peace process has thus revealed more than bigotry; it has exposed the criminality 
behind operational paramilitary organizations in Northern Ireland who have used 
the conflict as a cover for organized crime, exposing those who have ridden the train 
of sectarianism for as long as they could, reaping benefits and killing with amnesty 
while they carved out drug empires in the shadow of religion, politics, and identity 
(Fig. 3.5). 

Fig. 3.5 Loyalist mural of “Eddie” in the Lower Shankill housing estate commissioned by Johnny 
"Mad Dog” Adair. (Photo: Alexandra Hartnett) 

3 Aestheticized Geographies of Conflict 


During Adair’s subsequent re-incarceration for directing terrorist activities and 
drug trafficking, many of the murals he had commissioned were quickly painted 
over as locals hastened to distance themselves from him. Two years later, another 
turf war was fought through the placement and defacement of murals that, this time, 
took place between the UVF and the LVF in which murals of the latter were sys- 
tematically defaced, prompting the newspaper headline “Terror feud looming over 
mural attacks” ( Belfast Telegraph , May 19, 2002). Murals, therefore, became an 
essential part of how these sectarian groups defined themselves, their politics, and 
their territory. 

Starting in the mid-1990s, republican murals leaned away from this type of 
menacing fist-shaking. The introduction of political, historical, and heritage motifs 
shifted the public eye away from the paramilitary images and toward a far more 
compassionate image of nationalism in the North. The timing of this new direction 
in mural art coincided with shifting trends in the North as the IRA was attempting 
to downplay its image as a terrorist organization through a public relations battle 
fought by Gerry Adams, in particular, whose popularity was growing in the USA 
to such an extent that he was even invited into the White House to meet with 
Bill Clinton in 1998. The murals were, however, (and still are) used to dissemi- 
nate political commentary (Fig. 3.6). They argued for the release of prisoners of 
war; they urged people to “Vote Sinn Fein”; they advocated for the end of Orange 
parades that passed through nationalist areas; they called for the withdrawal of 
British troops and the cessation of the use of rubber bullets; they warned against 

Fig. 3.6 Republican mural located in the Ardoyne, “Collusion is not an illusion: It is State mur- 
der,” accusing the British government of conspiring with the outlawed UDA. (Photo: Alexandra 


A. Hartnett 

collusion and damned the hypocrisy inherent in the police forces, both the Royal 
Uester Constabulary (RUC) and its successor, the Police Service of Northern Ireland 
(PSNI); and as in Fig. 3.6, they accused the British government of colluding with 
loyalist paramilitary groups (see Rolston 1995a, b, 2003). When the British Army 
found murals politically seditious, they would hurl paint bombs at them, prompting 
the muralists to work in block-like, primary colors that could be easily repainted 

Local republican muralists are, for the most part, gracious to visitors to such 
an extent that some of them will welcome you into their homes and put you up 
for the night. They exult in the international interest shown in their work and are 
happy to invite outside collaboration as they did with Ruben Ortiz-Torres, a Mexican 
muralist from Los Angeles who visited Belfast in 1992 and who was more or less 
coerced into painting a political mural with a well-known local artist, Gerard Kelly 
[Note 14] . The visiting artist understood this mural, which is even now prominently 
featured on Ballymurphy Road, to represent “Mexican and Irish heroes who in other 
contexts could be seen as villains; revolutionary heroes of the past and present.” 
In a rather humorous account filled with British soldiers, paint bombs, and low- 
flying helicopters, Ortiz-Torres describes how his own input into the content and 
artistic style of the mural was negligible because “There was no other way than 
their own.” According to Ortiz-Torres, in between telling him what to do Kelly 
spent much of the time “insulting the (nearby) soldiers while explaining. . . that the 
chopper had sophisticated spying systems from which they could hear and record 
[their conversation].” Ortiz-Torres explained how these murals become alienated 
from the artist and become a part of a public landscape that is entrenched in political 
discourse and identity issues, writing, “The mural began to have a life of its own. 
More than a piece of art ... or a revolutionary illustration ... it is a global barrio 
mural as eccentric as the reality that produced it.” 

Ortiz-Torres had to work within rigid boundaries so that the mural that was even- 
tually produced would fit into the relatively narrow confines of what is considered 
to be acceptable mural art in Belfast. There is little sentimentality in this business 
and if a mural does not fit or is not popular, it will quickly be painted over, no mat- 
ter who the guest artist is [Note 15]. Ortiz-Torres, who wanted to incorporate the 
army’s paint bombs into an abstraction about the social life of murals in a contested 
landscape, had his ideas dismissed because, in nationalist Belfast, the images that 
grace the gable walls of the community must be meaningful to the people who live 
there through their shared experience and a mutual belief in what nationalist cul- 
ture is in Northern Ireland. It is through that local production of knowledge and the 
knowledge of production that particular nationalist neighborhoods in Belfast clamor 
for their own murals, as is evident in the cul-de-sacs of the Ballymurphy estate. Turf 
Lodge, the Ardoyne, New Lodge, etc. Local residents who were active in the repub- 
lican movement, particularly those who were “killed in action,” feature prominently 
on the walls. Because they are local men and women, they are usually depicted with 
friendly smiles on their faces along with the guns in their hands. The immediacy 
of these images and the familiarity of their identities — someone’s father, someone 
else’s brother — transform what was a campaign of terror into something completely 
different for the people who habitually had their front doors shattered by the British 

3 Aestheticized Geographies of Conflict 


Fig. 3.7 Republican mural commemorating deceased IRA volunteers. (Note the peace wall in the 
background.) (Photo: Alexandra Hartnett) 

Army. The friendly faces are brave defenders to local residents who look out at the 
murals through their kitchen window or pass by them every day on the way to the 
main road. The men portrayed in these murals are not interpreted as terrorists and 
they are never depicted in a sinister way (such as dressed in the black balaclavas that 
were so prominent on loyalist walls) (Fig. 3.7). 

Other murals deliberately instill a connection between contemporary Catholic 
culture in Northern Ireland and that of the pre-Republic Irish Catholic commu- 
nity through highlighting experiences that they bore as a result of the anti-Catholic, 
colonial legislation that penalized their ancestors in the eighteenth and nineteenth 
centuries, in particular. These are historical events that are marked by trauma and 
are meant to evoke the injustice and discrimination experienced by the Catholics 
in Ireland across time at the hands of the British colonial regime. Popular themes 
include the Irish Famine of 1845-1849 — An Gorta Mor — in which the population 
of Catholic Ireland was reduced by at least 20-25% through starvation and emigra- 
HOLOCAUST” are set against the emaciated figures shown alongside them. Other 
murals show the mass emigration in the form of overstuffed boats loaded with gaunt 
passengers heading off to the Americas. Similarly, representations can be found that 
depict the anti-Catholic legislation of the Penal Laws: a scene of a group of people 
standing at a mass rock, celebrating communion, after their churches were confis- 
cated and their religion suppressed; students studying at a hedge school since one of 
the earliest Penal Laws stated that “no person of the popish religion shall publicly 
or in private houses teach school. . .” because it blocked conformity to the “true 
religion” and the adoption of “English habit(s) and language” (7 Will III c. 4, 1695). 

A. Hartnett 

Other murals, more openly political but arguably no more politicized, draw par- 
allels between the struggles undertaken during the final decades of the twentieth 
century and those of the early century. Contemporary violence aimed at the British 
in the name of liberty and self-rule is purposefully compared to the struggle carried 
out by the heroes of the failed Easter Rising of 1916. The Easter Rising is a com- 
mon theme among the historical murals; it celebrates the men and women who were 
willing to give their lives for the cause, just as latter day republicans were and are 
willing to sacrifice their lives for what they consider to be an extension of the same 
primary republican goal: a united Ireland free of British governance, intervention, 
and culture. 

Republican muralists have established prominent visual links to other allegedly 
dispossessed and colonized cultures, including the Iraqis, Basque separatists, and 
Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank (Fig. 3.8). In the same series of murals 
along the “international wall” on the Lower Falls Road, anti-George Bush murals 
paint him with a giant straw in his mouth, siphoning off the natural resources of Iraq 
and situating his administration in opposition to freedom movements everywhere. 
In doing this, the muralists have deliberately forged an imagined community 
whose shared culture is rooted in the experience of colonial oppression and native 

Fig. 3.8 Nationalist mural that reads, “Palestine. . . The largest concentration camp in the world! ! ! 
3.3 million innocent people tortured, denied their freedom!” To the right, a play on a popular 
Palestinian peace and flag poster (partially visible on the left ) that turns the flag into the Irish 
tricolor with “Tioc faidh aria” below: “Our time will come.” (Photo: Alexandra Hartnett) 

3 Aestheticized Geographies of Conflict 


resistance. Beneath the public relations level of nationalist human rights interest, 
however, there have been allegations of collaboration between the IRA and Fuerzas 
Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) guerrillas in Colombia, arms deal- 
ing with the PLO, and “cultural exchanges” or knowledge-sharing meetings with 
members of Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) (the Basque separatist movement in 
Spain). The murals of Belfast therefore provide a unique window into this subcul- 
ture of ethnonationalist extremism. In the East Belfast Catholic enclave of the Short 
Strand, for example, a small mural was placed outside a shop-front featuring a snake 
twining around an axe with the words bietan jarrai beneath; it was there for a num- 
ber of years. When I asked a local muralist about it, he told me that when a group 
from Spain was visiting they gave a couple of the “kids” “a wall and a paintbrush 
to see what they could do.” This symbol belongs to ETA, which has killed over 800 
people since 1968. The mural has recently been removed and, as a mural space, it 
has not been reused. 

In framing the nationalist cause within the rubric of ideological struggle, nation- 
alist muralists have drawn links between events in Belfast’s recent history and events 
beyond Ireland. In the aftermath of the violence that erupted in 2001-2002 at the 
Holy Cross Primary School in the Ardoyne area, where worldwide coverage showed 
people taunting stricken children on their way to school in a flare-up of violence 
allegedly inflamed by the local UDA (the loyalist UDA), a striking nationalist mural 
went up just down the street from the school. In it, there is a clear association drawn 
between that experience and the 1957 crisis that arose around desegregation in Little 
Rock, Arkansas, when 17 black students were integrated into an all-white school 
(Fig. 3.9). 

Strangely enough, however, images from the human rights march that gave rise 
to Bloody Sunday — when between 10,000 and 20,000 people marching in protest 
of republican imprisonment without trial were fired upon by the British Army, leav- 
ing 13 dead — are not the themes used on the murals in Belfast despite being one of 
the most visible civil rights moments in the North. Instead, Bloody Sunday murals 
are found solely in the city of Derry, where murals replicate black-and-white pho- 
tographs taken during the march. These murals are starkly distinctive as a group and 
are markedly different from those in Belfast: no mythological themes are explored; 
no Celtic interlace traces the edges of the building; there is no use of the Irish lan- 
guage. The event of Bloody Sunday is implicitly the realm of the Derry muralists, 
a different community of artists living in a different political landscape with differ- 
ent life experiences. They themselves distinguish their work as being comparatively 
apolitical. On their website they write, 

. . . there is no intention of propaganda, nor is there any intention to isolate or intimidate any 

section of the community. These murals tell the story of the Bogside, told by the people of 

the Bogside. ( 

This is not a sentiment shared by the majority of muralists in Belfast who cre- 
ate even the most benign images with a barely veiled intent to seize the public 
consciousness and reshape it in their own vision. 


A. Hartnett 

Fig. 3.9 Nationalist mural in the Ardoyne: “Everyone has the right to live free from sectarian 
harassment: It’s black and white!” (Photo: Alexandra Hartnett) 

I have written elsewhere about the incorporation of Irish mythology in the Belfast 
murals so I will not discuss it in depth here (see Hartnett 2009). The vivid incorpora- 
tion of Celtic themes retells the stories of the Tuatha de Danann , the Children of Lir, 
Cuchulainn of the Tain Bo Cuailnge, and other Irish fables, surrounding them with 
Irish interlace and Irish phraseology. Imagery of Celtic mythology, much of which 
was based on the artwork of Jim Fitzpatrick, has therefore been a common theme 
among nationalist murals, particularly in West Belfast, and it is far from benign. 
Instead, it is an openly political attempt to incorporate an essence of “Irishness” 
into the nationalist community. This is in part because West Belfast was the stomp- 
ing ground of Mo Chara, a man who is an admirer of Fitzpatrick’s art and a talented 
artist in his own right. 

The Politics of Heritage in Mural-Making 

When I first met Gerard Kelly, he was involved in a community project off the Falls 
Road, in West Belfast (Fig. 3.10). He and Danny Devenney were painting a series of 
vignettes based on decades-old photographs that local residents had provided. This 
mural, which stretched along a retaining wall overlooking the motorway, allowed 
the local community to stamp their personal histories on the landscape in an apoliti- 
cal manner. The images were not sectarian; instead, they were snippets of everyday 
life: a child balanced on a rocking horse; a newly married couple smiling for the 
camera; a milkman pulling a horse-drawn cart. The muralists handed local children 
paintbrushes and had them draw what they saw in the corner of each panel, creating 

3 Aestheticized Geographies of Conflict 


Fig. 3.10 Muralists Gerard Kelly and Danny Devenny painting a mural in West Belfast for the 
Frank Gillen Community Centre. (Photo: Alexandra Hartnett) 

a charming series of images. This is not the first time that the muralists have incor- 
porated children into the process of mural-making. In fact, they have been willful 
collaborators in the mural process, or at least apprentices, and they have always been 
encouraged to participate, run errands, and generally feel that they are part of the 
action, producers of history. 

Gerard Kelly, or Mo Chara, as he is known, is one of the men who received 
an informal Celtic studies education in prison. He picked up his nickname because 
his faulty memory hindered him from recalling other prisoners’ names; so, in the 
process of learning Irish, he began to call everyone mo chara, which means “my 
friend”; they, in turn, returned the favor and the name stuck. Funnily enough, he 
does not see the irony in his nickname because Mo Chara delights in his truths 
of black and white in a city filled with shades of gray. His is a philosophy which 
seems frighteningly rational upon explanation, so simple and so forgivable. Yet it 
is so unforgiving, so irrational, and unabashedly rigid. Mo Chara excels at his art. 
However, at least until recently he would have told you that this is a means rather 
than an end, for he claimed to be fundamentally a political activist and freely admit- 
ted to me in 2001 that he would still be involved in sectarian violence if he had not 
been caught trying to pipe-bomb someone’s car for the “Ra.” He is unashamed in 
his retelling of his days in the IRA and Long Kesh prison and polishes his stories 
like the badges of honor he sees them to be. 

Jack Santino also has interviewed Mo Chara and the same story he told me is 
repeated — almost to the word — in the Santino (1999) article "Public Protest and 
Popular Style.” One thing that Mo Chara imparted to Santino and not to me, how- 
ever, was that the person who may or may not have informed on him was later 


A. Hartnett 

found riddled with bullets (Santino 1999:522). With that level of dedication, it is 
difficult to imagine Mo Chara having any other goal but a republican one, which is 
something he did admit to me. His choice of mythological imagery was therefore 
no accident. Every time a child approached him to ask him what he was painting, 
it delighted Gerard Kelly and gave him the opportunity to shape young minds and, 
as Santino says, it allowed his politics to become their politics (Santino 1999:522). 
Elsewhere, I argue that these images are purely political in part because the artists 
align the myths with contemporary events and fictional characters with modern-day 
heroes (Hartnett 2009). Moreover, by the mere act of painting Irish imagery, mythol- 
ogy, and local history on these walls, nationalists are claiming the space as Irish. As 
with the loyalist murals, these murals are not just marking space, however; they are 
creating it. In building his images on the landscape it has been Kelly’s goal to sub- 
stantiate history, lend reality to myth, obviate complacency, and, in his own words, 
educate the children (Fig. 3.11). 

The prevalence of the Irish language in republican murals was a direct result of 
the Long Kesh education that emphasized language as a defining and bonding cul- 
tural trait that reinforced cultural distinction and helped to forge a sense of Irishness 
in a community that had long been penalized when showing it in public. The Irish 
language is inherently politicized because at one time the English in Ireland insti- 
tuted the death penalty for anyone who was caught teaching it; in the eighteenth 

Fig. 3.11 A Mo Chara mural depicting with mythological imagery in the style of Jim Fitzpatrick, 
in progress. (Photo: Alexandra Hartnett) 

3 Aestheticized Geographies of Conflict 


century the colonial administration actively tried to stamp it out by anglicizing place 
names; and from 1947, 10 years after the South declared itself a Republic, it was 
illegal in Northern Ireland to erect road signs in Irish. In 1984, Martin O’Mulleoir, 
later a Sinn Fein councilor, was arrested for doing exactly that. Nationalist senti- 
ment in the North persisted, however, and by 1989 there were more than 300 Irish 
road signs in nationalist areas despite their technical illegality {The Boston Globe, 
July 30, 1989). In Long Kesh, prisoners used the Irish language to communicate 
with each other in an open discourse of subversion in the presence of guards, none 
of whom knew the language. Irish remained officially prohibited until 1995, when 
it was given formal recognition. After that, following a major Sinn Fein campaign 
that focused on language, Irish was given “unprecedented recognition and fund- 
ing in the North” {The Irish Times, May 13, 1999). Even now, there is a mural 
just off the Falls Road that proclaims, “ CEARTA TEANGA, CEARTA DAONNA 

In reaction to the increasing legitimation of Irish culture in the North, its rising 
popularity in nationalist areas, and its creeping acceptance in Northern culture, the 
unionist community has sought to reinforce its own cultural identity in a way that 
distinguished it from both its Irish and English counterparts, neither of which were 
comfortable fits. Within a year of the Good Friday Agreement, there was a major 
push on the unionist side to promote Ulster Scots, or “Ullan,” “an ancient hearth 
dialect linking Northern Ireland Protestants with their Scottish ancestral homeland” 
{The Independent, December 10, 1999). This dialect was unique to the northeast of 
Ireland, derived as it was from the Ulster plantations of the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries. The chairman of the Ulster Scots Society, Hugh McMillen, tried to liken 
it to the Irish experience, saying, “It may not exactly have been beat out of us but it 
was certainly pushed off us. There is a big interest now in the culture and it seems 
to be spreading” {Belfast Newsletter, February 24, 1999). However, only a handful 
of Ulster Protestants recognized it as distinct to their community: 

This was demonstrated a few weeks ago when some of its advocates placed street-name 
signs around a loyalist district in what they saw as a proud display of their heritage. The 
signs were torn down by enraged residents who, not being acquainted with Ulster-Scots, 
thought they were in Irish and were affronted by them. ( Belfast Newsletter, February 24, 

Nevertheless, the concept of a distinct Ulster Scots culture has made signifi- 
cant advances in the last decade. It is true that Union Jacks are still ubiquitous in 
unionist neighborhoods, especially during the marching season, and there are still 
many unionist murals that celebrate the Ulster soldiers who fought in the Battle 
of the Somme in 1916. Equally, it is easy to find murals dedicated to the Queen, 
the Queen Mum, and even Princess Diana (Prince Charles is curiously absent). 
However, it is the Ulster Scots identity that is growing in popularity as this com- 
munity seeks to reinvent itself as neither Irish nor British (Fig. 3.12). As such, 
attempts have been made to emphasize “at once the antiquity of the Ulster-Scottish 
relationship and the ancient distinction between Ulster and the rest of Ireland” 
(Officer and Walker 2000:303). This is seen in a mural that states, "4,000 YEARS 


A. Hartnett 

Fig. 3.12 A loyalist mural 
depicting a Scottish piper 
playing over the grave of a 
UVF member. “Here lies a 
soldier.” (Photo: Alexandra 

SHARED LITERATURE, SHARED CULTURE.” References to an ancient and dis- 
tinct history that belongs to a non-Irish group in Ulster are far from benign; instead, 
they are fully politicized claims to the land based on heritage. 

Much has long been made of a prominent and long-lived loyalist mural at 
“Freedom Corner” on Newtonards Road in East Belfast (Harrison 1986:258; 
Hartnett 2009; Moore and Sanders 2002:11; Santino 1999:520), in which the Irish 
mythological figure Cuchulainn was co-opted by the UDA as an Ulster hero instead 
of an Irish one in the mold of a pre-Celtic inhabitant of the North with ties 
to Scotland who defended his territory from the Irish aggressors of the South. 
Since then, Cuchulainn has appeared in more murals in other loyalist communities, 
notably in the Highfield housing estate and the Lower Shankill Road, the former 
domain of Johnny Adair. This cultural borrowing of what was always considered 
an Irish hero has allowed the Ulster Scots population to pull back the baseline of 

3 Aestheticized Geographies of Conflict 


Fig. 3.13 Cuchulainn, a figure from Irish mythology who has been adopted by the loyalist com- 
munity as a defender of Northern Ireland against the South. This particular mural also appropriates 
Ogham stones (although the example here is incorrectly depicted). (Photo: Alexandra Hartnett) 

their history to create an analogy that legitimates their attempts at cultural and polit- 
ical hegemony in Ulster. The Cuchulainn mural on the Lower Shankill explains their 
position: “Here we stand, here we remain. We simply want to take our God-ordained 
place as indigenous Ulster people.” In stressing their indigenity the Ulster Scotts are 
claiming the landscape as theirs and summarily dismissing any Irish claims to it by 
painting them as the interlopers, like Connacht’s Queen Maeve when she chased 
Cuchulainn into Ulster (see Gregory 1994) (Fig. 3.13). 

Re-Imaging Belfast 

The paramilitary murals showcasing masked gunmen are slowly heading toward 
obsolescence in today’s political climate of reconciliation and restitution. This was 
punctuated by the terror attack of September 11, 2001 (9/1 1), which abruptly cut off 
any and all United States support of or sympathy for sectarian activities in Northern 
Ireland and made the use of terror, even if only exhibited as a balaclava-clad 
gunman, inappropriate ( Belfast Telegraph, September 19, 2001). 

In July 2006, the British government introduced the “Re-Imaging Communities 
Programme” and pledged £3.3 million to communities in Northern Ireland to pay 
for the replacement of paramilitary murals with seemingly benign images that are 


A. Hartnett 

meant to highlight local culture and history. In their July 2006 brochure, funded by 
the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, they attest. 

This programme will help to replace paramilitary murals and emblems with positive images 

and to develop mural art and public art which celebrates life and helps people feel part of 

the community they live in. 

Whether it is the government-sponsored program or just people tired of sectari- 
anism, there is a clear shift in the type and style of murals currently being painted, 
particularly in loyalist areas. The seemingly benign murals that are going up in place 
of their intimidating predecessors are aimed at celebrating local histories and demil- 
itarizing shared, public space. This is a laudable enterprise. However, in a town like 
Belfast two conversations can take place at the same time, one verbally and the other 
silently through the choice of idioms, sports affiliations, material culture (T-shirts, 
tattoos, rings, haircuts, etc.), and countless other quotidian choices selected either 
intentionally or unconsciously. Equally, murals are loaded with symbolism that is 
easily interpreted: the lily versus the poppy; the use of Irish versus Latin; interlace 
versus scrolls; the Celtics versus the Rangers. All of these seemingly harmless fea- 
tures proclaim an identity and assert spatial ownership. Local histories and claimed 
heritage can therefore be wielded as powerfully as any weapon, and both sides of 
the extremes of this divided city excel at spinning falsehoods and masking truths. 
As such, underlying tensions may be perpetuated not as exhibitions of intimidation 
and violence, but instead as coded claims to a contested heritage. 

These new murals shift the onus of aggression from the loyalist paramilitaries 
to their republican counterparts and what they achieve is nothing short of bril- 
liant: they have reversed the rolls of domination and resistance to make themselves 
the underdog instead of the oppressor and suddenly it is the Catholics who are 
walking all over the Protestants rather than the other way around. Extrapolating 
from the Cuchulainn myth, these men in the mural are “defending their community 
which was subject to constant attempts at ethnic cleansing,” according to one. The 
Protestant communities which, in previous years, have been identified as dominant 
have turned the tables on their accusers by grasping hold of the mantle of victim- 
hood and wearing it boldly. By claiming to be marginalized, they are claiming the 
power of resistance that had previously belonged to republican ideologues, as in 
Pig. 3.14, where they ask, “Can it change?” (Pig. 3.14). 

Shortly before the Re-Imaging Communities Programme was instated, several 
murals went up in loyalist Belfast that anticipated the shift from paramilitary to com- 
munity representations, including images of United States Presidents with Ulster 
heritage; locally born Pootballer George Best and author C.S. Lewis; and the Titanic, 
which was built in the nearby Harland and Wolff shipyard. When I asked several 
Republican muralists what they thought of them, they laughed them off and said, 
“We started that stuff fifteen years ago...” and believed that their mural tradition 
had served as the template for the non-sectarian imagery going up on loyalist walls. 
There may be some truth to this. Recent equal-rights-themed murals that have been 
erected in loyalist Belfast are remarkably similar in style and rhetoric to some of 
those erected by their republican counterparts and are just as politically loaded. The 

3 Aestheticized Geographies of Conflict 


Fig. 3.14 A loyalist mural in the Lower Shankill area that reads, “Several hundred familys (sic) 
were forced to flee their homes last night as houses came under attack from republicans. . (Photo: 
Alexandra Hartnett) 

East Belfast Historical and Cultural Society erected a long banner mural at Cluan 
place that advocates “Civil and Religious Liberties for All,” “Better the Grave than 
Slavery,” and “Defending the Community” in a series of images that states, “Ulster 
People Take Stand Against Republican Tyranny.” By highlighting local culture and 
history in these vignettes, they effectively valorize unionist actions in what they call 
the face of republican aggression and English indifference. Captions accompany the 
images and among them are the following statements: 

• “Republicans targeted the area in the early summer of 2002 with the purpose of 
driving the small Protestant community from the area. . .” 

• “. . .republicans mounted their vicious sectarian attacks and then withdrew pro- 
ceeding to choreograph media coverage of events — pushing forward the spin that 
it was their area under attack. . . Meanwhile, the small and beleaguered Unionist 
community was still reeling from the violent attack.” 

• “Despite their success against the IRA and the death of so many of their members 
the British government disbanded both of these fine organisations [the USC and 
the UDR], causing untold hurt to our community and leaving a sense of betrayal 

• “Many innocent Protestants were murdered simply because of their religion, oth- 
ers were injured and many burnt out of their homes. The community was in 


A. Hartnett 

Fig. 3.15 Cluan place mural 
that advocates freedom for 
Ulster unionists. (Photo: 
Alexandra Hartnett) 

turmoil and felt that there was no one to defend it. It was then that they [the 
communities] decided to take matters into their own hands and organise them- 
selves into groups [the UDA and the UVF] capable of defending their homes and 
businesses from these violent and horrific sectarian attack[s].” 

Heritage in this case is being used as effectively by loyalist muralists as it ever has 
by their republican counterparts. If the identifying nouns were removed from these 
captions, they could easily be arguing nationalist sentiments since, for many years, 
it was republican murals that represented the nationalist community as the victim of 
the more politically powerful unionists and the violent loyalist paramilitary groups. 
The mural in Cluan Place demonstrates this with its caption, “How is freedom mea- 
sured? By the effort which it costs to retain freedom!” The only difference is the 
word retain rather than gain (Fig. 3.15). 

Other new and unique murals have replaced the earlier, menacing examples that 
were erected during Johnny Adair’s reign in the Lower Shankill housing estate. 
One is a startling mural depicting the “red hand of Ulster,” a vividly severed hand 
lying on a rock, thrown there by a bearded man in a ship that looks suspiciously 
like a Viking longship found in Sweden. The myth unfolds with two chieftains (or 

3 Aestheticized Geographies of Conflict 


Fig. 3.16 The “Red Hand of Ulster” in the Shankill estate. (Photo: Alexandra Hartnett) 

Vikings) racing toward Ulster in order to be the first to claim it; as they approached 
it neck and neck, the more audacious leader cut off his own hand and threw it onto 
the shore, thus claiming Ulster for his people. This is thought to have been an origin 
myth that was adopted by the O’Neill family in the fourteenth century, and the sev- 
ered red hand was their heraldic emblem until they were disempowered by the wars 
of the seventeenth century and the ensuing plantation schemes. Now a symbol of 
Ulster, this emblem has been adopted by the UFF, the UDA, the UVF, the Red Hand 
Commandos, and the UYM. It is in association with this myth that a mural com- 
memorating the Red Hand Commandos further up the Shankill Road states the battle 
cry of the O’Neills, “ Lamh dearg abu ,” which means “red hand forever” [Note 16]. 
By embracing this myth and showcasing it so prominently, Ulster Scots are making 
it clear that they are more entitled to Ireland than the Irish themselves (Fig. 3.16). 

Another Lower Shankill mural is dedicated to Oliver Cromwell, an arch-villain 
in Irish historiography who slaughtered thousands but, proclaims the mural, “Lord 
Protector, Defender of the Protestant Faith.” This mural is curious in a way, because 
it reintroduces religion as a key component in the northern divide, quoting Cromwell 
the face of an earlier, long-standing mural in East Belfast that reads, “THE ULSTER 
CONFLICT IS ABOUT NATIONALITY. . .” Nor does it take into account that 


A. Hartnett 

Cromwell was equally distrustful of some branches of Protestantism and led an 
army against his former Presbyterian allies in Scotland (Drake 1966:259). 

Beneath this bravado, however, there is almost a tangible anxiety. Situated as 
these Lower Shankill murals are, a single street over from the nationalist Falls Road, 
they overlook St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the sole remaining Divis Flat, a former 
IRA stronghold and a symbol of republican resistance. Surviving resentment is thus 
vividly illustrated on the immediate landscape as the power embedded in heritage is 
passionately fought over within a few square miles. 

Voicing Authenticity 

For a while, the criticism directed at the ubiquitous display of the Union Jack and 
paramilitary murals was seen by unionists as a 

conspiracy [aimed at] the erosion of British identity ... we never hear of anyone complain- 
ing about the number of [Irish] tricolours erected throughout the area. . .. We cannot fly the 
Union flag in case it offends, Orange parades are in jeopardy and banned from certain areas, 
Rangers and Linfield shirts are also now offensive, our very culture and existence is being 
threatened on a daily basis, (letter, British Telegraph , May 20, 2000) 

In point of fact, the loyalists of the North are fighting a dead cause: the Anglo- 
Irish Agreement stipulated that, with a majority vote, the North could join the 
Republic and cede its ties to Great Britain. Through Britain’s agreement to this, 
the Protestants of Northern Ireland felt betrayed by those to whom they had main- 
tained such loyalty. This is expressed in the mural at Cluan Place (Fig. 3.17), where 
the community writes, from Ulster to Britain, 

Thou mayest find another daughter with a fairer face than mine, with a gayer voice, & 
sweeter, and a softer eye than mine, but thou canst not find another that will love thee half 
so well. 

The Belfast gable murals have merged the objective and subjective pillars of 
history — the real and the mythologized pasts — into the public sphere of consump- 
tion. These images reiterate contentious and reconstructed events that are designed 
to proclaim, “here we were, here we are, and here we will remain.” In doing so, 
they serve to cement the specter of the past into the reality of the present. They 
do not urge people to forget, to forgive, or to compromise. Instead, they encourage 
memories to linger at the edge of consciousness as people go about their daily lives, 
passing the murals on the way to work, to school, to the shops, to home. In relaying 
those histories, multiple communities are sincerely forging identities from a para- 
doxically earnest yet cherry-picked past through carefully selected scenes from a 
myriad of moments. It is in this way that the murals have taken on life of their own 
independent of their subject matter. They have become so important to community 
identity that they are, indeed, “more artefact than art” (Jarman 1998:81), with the 
added bonus that they have become an integral part of Belfast’s “living history” and 
are a major source of tourist income. 

Presently, those who once resisted State intervention in their choice of mural art 
have largely been appeased with grants between £5,000 and £50,000, depending 
on the size of the community project in question. This monetary incentive, as well 
meaning as it may be, has been yet another source of contention since the vast 

3 Aestheticized Geographies of Conflict 


Fig. 3.17 Centerpiece of the 
Cluan Place murals in East 
Belfast. (Photo: Alexandra 

majority (if not all) of the blatantly paramilitary murals were located in loyalist 
communities; republican areas, which have long used culture and history to express 
their political convictions in mural art, have few (if any) murals that fall into the 
paramilitary category and therefore can solicit no claims to compensation. 

While some people are delighted with the changes in mural art, not every- 
one agrees that this was the right move. First, when several loyalist murals 
were painted over with whitewash in Coleraine in 2001, 5 years before the Re- 
Imaging Communities Programme was instituted, the UDA was outraged. They 
said, “Whether people like it or not, these murals are part of our culture. . .. We 
believe that [their removal] is another step to destroy our culture and we can’t 
accept that” ( Belfast Telegraph, April 29, 2001). This statement is enlightening. It 
reveals a self-styled and openly acknowledged culture of sectarianism and paramil- 
itary mural-making that is not invalid just because it is illegal and maintained by 
violence and intolerance. It has been bred from decades of hate and fear and is 
arguably as real as any other cultural construct. Saying it is wrong does not negate 
its existence. This voice is authentic and, paradoxically, this outlawed terrorist group 
felt that it was their right, in every sense of the word, to express their identity and 
belonging in the public sphere through mural art. It is through the material culture of 
murals, after all, that opinions are voiced and knowledge is produced. Equally, the 
years of sectarian paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland is a genuine, valid, and 


A. Hartnett 

pivotal characteristic of Belfast’s modem heritage; erasing menacing images does 
not erase that reality. Now that the State has become involved in the production of 
murals, which in and of itself has long been a tradition of the streets, of the peo- 
ple, and marked by a fluidity that has allowed for immediate self-representation and 
agency, it raises the question of whether that authentic voice has been co-opted by 
those in office who believe that the feelings and beliefs on the street should reflect 
the consensus in Stormont. 

Beyond being a tourist attraction, the murals have become an intrinsic part of 
Northern Ireland’s heritage and to erase them is to deny that history, controversial 
as it is, and to whitewash the lived experience. In the Lower Shankill, the former 
stomping ground of some of the most feared paramilitaries in Northern Ireland, 
the 2009 star project of the Re-Imaging Communities Programme is charged with 
erasing the remaining political murals and replacing them not with local images of 
history or culture but, instead, with almost comically apolitical “happy” murals that, 
rather startlingly, seem as though they have dropped from space into one of the most 
economically depressed communities in Europe that is marked almost viscerally 
with the shadows of violence (see Belfast Telegraph, June 17, 2009). By taking 
control of the mural-making, Stormont has taken control of the discourse that was 
pivotal to the production of meaning in sectarian Belfast. Nevertheless, the words 
and images that are painted on the walls of Belfast are not indelible aspects of the 
landscape. If left alone they fade until their messages and imagery break up under 
the pressure of time while local mural artists gradually leave the local behind them 
as they achieve worldwide recognition. 

In the summer of 2007, two artists, Danny Devenny and Mark Ervine, came 
together on the Lower Falls Road in collaboration to paint a mural that replicated 
Guernica, a compelling composition through which Picasso sought to “express [his] 
abhorrence of the military caste which has sunk Spain in an ocean of pain and death” 
(Pablo Picasso as quoted in Brunner 2001: 80) (Fig. 3.18). Painted in response 
to the senseless slaughter of innocents in the Basque town of northern Spain that 
was carried out by the German Luftwaffe’s Condor Legion on behalf of Franco 
in 1937 (see Thomas and Witts 1975), this image is regarded as a definitive anti- 
war statement and is widely considered to be one of the most important works of 
twentieth-century art. When Devenny and Ervine collaborated on their mural, it was 
widely covered by the media and was considered remarkable not just for its artis- 
tic content, but because it was one of the most notable collaborative efforts to be 
carried out by a Catholic republican, in this case Devenny, and a Protestant loyal- 
ist, Ervine, in the tradition of mural painting in Northern Ireland. Devenny told the 

(Mark Ervine) still has his loyalist opinions, which I respect, and I still have my republican 
ones, but we found we had so many things in common. We wanted to show people, and 
particularly young people, that if we could work together anyone could. (The Guardian, 
August 31, 2007) 

Sponsored by the search engine (which is advertised above the mural) 
and not the Re-Imaging Communities Programme, this collaboration retains the 

3 Aestheticized Geographies of Conflict 


Fig. 3.18 The Guernica mural, painted on the Lower Falls Road by Danny Devenny and Mark 
Ervine. (Photo: Alexandra Hartnett) 

authenticity of agency on the part of the muralists of Belfast and opens, perhaps, 
a new tradition in mural discourse. 

It is impossible now, I think, to imagine Belfast without the presence of its mural 
art. To do so would be to strip it of its uniqueness and its allure; it would certainly 
remove it from any top 10 lists of tourist attractions. Without an honest mural dis- 
course, Belfast would lose the vitality for which it has fought as a city in which the 
daily practice of politics and culture is mediated not from above, from the govern- 
ment or from the media, but instead from below, from the people who live on the 
same streets that exhibit the murals so proudly. These cultural artifacts are the central 
site for the production and contestation of the social, the ideological, and the politi- 
cal, but they are also the medium through which heritage is claimed and displayed. 
They actively create social space in which the landscape of ordinary streets and 
ordinary houses becomes charged with meaning. The murals of Belfast therefore 
not only depict heritage; they are heritage. 


1. This was proven most recently when the Real IRA attacked a British Army barracks in 
Massereene on March 7, 2009, leaving two dead and a number of others injured, including 
two pizza delivery men who were accused of being “collaborators” (Belfast Telegraph, March 
9, 2009). The public reaction from most quarters was one of disgust and dismay that exposed 

104 A. Hartnett 

a genuine distaste for the renewal of violence in Northern Ireland. Subsequent sectarian vio- 
lence has been similarly decried by many on all sides although the practice of “knee-capping,” 
by which the ill-favored are shot in the knee, is still prevalent. 

2. See 

3. I would like to thank Alison Kohn for her very helpful remarks on this, and also for reading 
and re-reading segments of this chapter tirelessly and critically, giving me much food for 

4. The United Irishmen was a group made up of Catholics and Presbyterians who promoted 
revolutionary ideals based on French experiences. They attempted to overthrow the English- 
controlled government in a failed 1798 rebellion. 

5. The descendents of the Anglo-Normans, the “Old English,” trod carefully and deliber- 
ately between the two groups, with some professing Englishness in public while practicing 
Catholicism in private (Howe 2000:34). 

6. Currently, the suspicion and mistrust that marked the relationship between Catholic and 
Protestant is being carried over to new groups of “others” and is most clearly evident in racial 
attacks that have been perpetrated in loyalist areas against recent immigrants from Eastern 
Europe, Asia, and Africa ( The Guardian , December 23, 2003, March 23, 2006). Here, a more 
ethnically and racially visible quarry was driven out of “The Village” in South Belfast in an 
effort to retain the cultural homogeneity that is so greatly guarded in the sectarian community. 

7. Others in this community do, of course, live their lives participating fully in the Catholic 
Church but may not consider themselves to be “political.” 

8. A 60-year-old Protestant doctor considers himself to be Irish even though he feels a very 
close cultural affinity with Scotland and plans to retire there. He is irreligious; but even 
though he is a highly educated professional who was married to a Catholic woman and 
whose grown children are also Catholic, he thinks nothing of referring to Catholics as 
“Taigs,” a term that is offensive to Irish Catholics and is most often found in loyalist graffiti, 
such as KAT (Kill All Taigs); “Yabba Dabba Do, Any Taig Will Do” ( 
othelem/glossary.htm#R); and “To those Taigs who objected to our mural — hope you enjoyed 
living here” ( Belfast Telegraph, May 5, 2001). 

9. In the UK and Ireland, each household must buy a television license from the government that 
pays for national programming and costs over £140. Fines for evasion can be up to £1,000. 

10. The hunger strike popularized by images of Bobby Sands and his compatriots remains a 
dominant theme and the republican movement takes credit for advancing hunger strikes inter- 
nationally as a form of dissent through martyrdom. Accepting this as a transnational and 
legitimate form of human rights protest, republican muralists have expressed their solidarity 
with hunger strikers elsewhere by re-creating their images locally. 

1 1 . Sitting with them in a republican bar, they jovially point out the men in the room who had 
been incarcerated as political prisoners; it was at least half of the room, probably more. They 
especially enjoy telling me the story of Tommy Gorman, a sedate-looking man who was 
famous for having successfully escaped from a prison ship anchored on the River Lagan, the 
Maidstone, in 1972. 

12. In 2003, for example, the UDA was known to have made a £5 million profit from drug dealing 
and racketeering (Belfast Telegraph, March 9, 2003). 

13. See, for example, Belfast Telegraph, July 3, 2001, February 16, 2002, May 28, 2002. 

14. All statements by Ruben Ortiz-Torres are quoted from this source: (http:// 

15. One well-known artist who had collaborated on a much-publicized mural in the Ardoyne was 
shocked when he returned shortly after its completion only to find that it was already in the 
process of being repainted with another mural. “Well,” the muralist told me with a shrug and 
a laugh, “It’s a good wall.” 

16. In my experience, this is one of the very few — if not the only — loyalist murals that actively 
incorporates the Irish language. 

3 Aestheticized Geographies of Conflict 



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Chapter 4 

Blood of Our Ancestors: Cultural Heritage 
Management in the Balkans 

Michael L. Galaty 


The Balkan Peninsula is known for its messy mix of culture, language, and religion. 
It is, and always has been, a crossroads and, for most of its history, contested terri- 
tory. The region’s jumbled past makes studying its landscape and built environment, 
and managing its cultural heritage resources, a difficult, politically charged process. 
Both in ancient times and recently, central powers have used heritage in creative 
ways to contest and undercut rival claims to land and move boundaries. 

My focus in this chapter, however, is not the behavior of central authorities per 
se; rather, I consider how people living on the margins of states negotiate, and 
help produce, history and heritage. Are heritage claims forced upon them by dis- 
tant powers? Or, do they themselves function as creative agents, also using heritage 
to press territorial claims, build and break alliances, and generate social, political, 
and economic capital? My interest in this subject stems from the archaeological 
and ethno-historical research I have conducted in Albania, in particular in the high 
mountains of the tribal north. In Albania, individuals, even marginalized individ- 
uals, have been and are anything but passive participants in heritage creation and 
management. They are the ones who actively engage landscapes and build cultural, 
including architectural, environments. Whereas we expect leaders such as dictators 
to use and abuse the past, in fact, in Albania, the beliefs about culture, language, and 
religion that generate heritage, and allow and require management, often bubble up 
from below. 

Although Albania constitutes the primary example in this chapter, the model I 
set out is, I believe, generally applicable to the wider Balkan region, if not the wider 
world. In what follows I describe six factors — though there are surely more — that 
together help shape particular local and national understandings of heritage. These 
are inscribed in and reflected by associated landscapes, including but not limited to 
those most manipulated by human beings, such as urban landscapes. The six factors 

M.L. Galaty (El) 

Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Millsaps College, Jackson, MS 39210, USA 

H. Silverman (ed.), Contested Cultural Heritage , 

DOI 10.1007/978-l-4419-7305-4_4, © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 201 1 



M.L. Galaty 

I will discuss are agency, imagination, memory, history, nationalism, and ethnicity 
(including religion, language, culture, and territory). Although all six of these fac- 
tors may operate independently, it is when they intersect that heritage structures are 
produced (Fig. 4.1). It is thus worthwhile to search regional archaeological and his- 
torical records for points of nexus, where contributing factors draw or are drawn 
together and heritage structures result. 

Factors in the Production of Heritage Structures 


The theoretical underpinnings for my approach to these questions are drawn from 
Pierre Bourdieu’s (1977) Outline of a Theory of Practice. I find agent-centered 
models of heritage making to be most useful, helping to explain how and why 
variously marginalized individuals might actively influence the heritage-making 
process. In my experience, national and regional histories may be imposed from the 
top down, by central governments in both dictatorships and democracies (Galaty 
and Watkinson 2004), but more often than not, they rise from the bottom up, so that 
even people living in the most remote portions of a country have an impact on and 
stake in national heritage policy. 

Bourdieu (1977:167-169) makes a distinction between the cultural fields of 
doxa and opinion (Fig. 4.2). The field of doxa encompasses the “universe of the 

4 Blood of Our Ancestors 


Fig. 4.2 Diagram of the 
relationship of doxa to 
opinion (adapted from 
Bourdieu 1977:168 by 
Michael Galaty) 

universe of the undiscussed 

undiscussed,” composed of ideas and behaviors that are inviolate and taken for 
granted. The field of opinion encompasses the “universe of discourse,” wherein 
new and competing ideas and behaviors are subject to evaluation. In the realm of 
opinion, some new ideas and behaviors are rejected in favor of established, “ortho- 
dox” ways of thinking and doing, whereas other, “heterodox” ideas and behaviors 
will gain a foothold, thereby challenging orthodoxy. It is typically those individuals 
who are dominated who introduce heterodoxy into the system and those who dom- 
inate who resist it in favor of orthodoxy. It is also within the realm of opinion that 
individuals may bend or break cultural rules and “improvise,” thereby producing 
challenging new riffs on old cultural norms and values. According to Bourdieu, it is 
this generative process that creates and renews culture. 

I would argue that processes of heritage-making and nation- and identity-making 
unfold within the field of opinion, with corresponding effects on the built environ- 
ment and on landscapes, generally. Some — I think very few — beliefs about history 
and heritage may rise to the level of doxa. But most of a nation’s history is open 
to discussion. History can be used both by those with political power and by those 
with none to push or resist various agendas. Today, in some parts of the Balkans, 
the process of heritage making is working over time, as individuals, like great jazz 
musicians, compose through improvisation new forms and interpretations of their 
national history. Most of these compositions lodge in the realm of heterodoxy, but 
some rise to the status of regional and national heritage orthodoxy. It is this move- 
ment, this shifting of new heritage values from heterodoxy to orthodoxy — in John 
Bodnar’s words (1993), from the “vernacular” to the “official” — that I address in 
this chapter. 


M.L. Galaty 


Bourdieu’s concept of agency has been amended by various social scientists, 
including Anthony Giddens, for example, through his “theory of structuration” 
(1984), and Arjun Appadurai, through his concept of “imagination” (1996). In 
archaeology, specifically, John Robb speaks of “genres of action” (2001; see also 
Robb 2007, where this concept is applied), and Adam Smith goes a step further, 
describing a “relational view of action” (2001:167). All of these add complexity to 
the theory of practice, but only Appadurai captures a sense of “nostalgia” (1996:30). 
According to Appadurai (following Jameson 1989), all societies, modern ones in 
particular, experience a sense of “nostalgia,” often for a past they never really expe- 
rienced. This is especially true of societies that actively experience crisis, which, 
according to Bourdieu (1977), is a necessary prerequisite for agentive change. 

Throughout history, with almost cyclical regularity, Balkan nations have expe- 
rienced crisis, typically as a result of invasion, but also as a result of internal 
political contests (Galaty et al. 2009). It is during these periods of turmoil, the 
most recent of which began with the collapse of communism, that new heritage 
tropes are tested — or retrofitted for current consumption — both by those in power 
and by those without power, but most importantly, by those aspiring to power. These 
heritage tropes are the product of individual minds, but may quickly take on a col- 
lective, intra- and inter- structural life of their own. We may therefore talk about 
both individual imaginations — plural — and, in Appadurai’s (1996) terms, a “collec- 
tive imaginary” — singular. A particular landscape may offer the symbols necessary 
to construct a collective sense of imagination, and may thereby also function as a 
potent, tangible source of validation as collective imagination impinges on the ide- 
ological realm of doxa. Likewise, landscape may function as a point of resistance to 
collective forms of imagination, especially when developing heritage structures are 
to be used as tools of domination. 


The creation of a viable collective imaginary, one that properly operationalizes indi- 
vidual and communal senses of nostalgia, depends upon the ability of agents to 
actively and effectively access and deploy systems of memory. Effective deployment 
of memory does not mean that the past is remembered as it in fact happened; rather, 
memories may be found or created that support or challenge nostalgic imagination, 
whether real or not (e.g., Alcock 2002; Van Dyke 2008). Paul Shackel (2001) argues 
that through memory people may create and commemorate three different, though 
not exclusive, forms of the past: an exclusionary past, a patriotic or celebrated past, 
and a past that enables or sanctifies a particular current social or political situation. 
These three forms of constructed past, or “heritage,” are certainly applicable to the 
European situation, most especially to the Balkans, where the sources of memory 
are endlessly deep and people are actively engaged in memory making and heritage 
construction. As a result, Kathryn Fewster (2007), for example, argues, based on her 

4 Blood of Our Ancestors 


work in Spain, that the best way to study processes of memory making and heritage 
making is through a landscape-centered, ethno-archaeology. This is the approach I 
take below. 


Imaginative, agentive action in heritage creation depends on a human propensity, 
in particular in times of crisis, to access and exploit feelings of nostalgia for the 
past. Different regional archaeologies and histories thereby allow and encourage 
certain forms of nostalgia and not others. Thus history, as it is recorded in writ- 
ten documents, provides one potential source of memories, however circumscribed. 
Another source of memories is the archaeological record, though in many countries 
this record was, until very recently, largely inaccessible, except as it was reflected 
in the visible, built environment and landscape. This was very much the case in 
Albania, which did not have a written history of its own prior to the late nineteenth 
or, officially, early twentieth century. Because individuals and groups so often ref- 
erence the past as reflected in the landscape when creating heritage and a sense of 
tradition, the landscape sets powerful limits on what memories can and cannot be 
entered into systems of national discourse. In this way, the landscape may act as 
an arena in which heterodox ideas about the past are viewed and tested, accepted 
or discarded. It sets limits, however broad, on what is potentially believable, and 
what is not. One possibility is that these limits contract or expand depending on 
one’s structural position and pose; that is, the view from the margins will not look 
the same as the view from the center. Given the key roles played by history and 
archaeology in heritage making, and the importance of the built environment and 
landscape as testing grounds for various forms of historical and archaeological dis- 
course, an ethno-archaeological approach to decisions about heritage management 
is almost unavoidable. 

Nationalism and Ethnicity 

According to Benedict Anderson (1991), nations are themselves products of imag- 
ination and, as imagined communities, are wholly dependent on ideologies that 
create a shared national identity for citizens. This may be accomplished by empha- 
sizing a group’s shared ethnic origins, supported by linguistic and religious similar- 
ities. Or, by emphasizing its claim to a piece of territory. Building these ideologies, 
and building nations, is therefore a heritage-making endeavor. Consequently, nation 
building and nationalism depend strongly, if not almost entirely, on constructed ver- 
sions of the past, versions that have been moved out of the realm of opinion and into 
the realm of doxa. As a result, processes of heritage making and decisions about 
heritage management are sharply exposed during periods of active nation making 
and identity making. The Balkan Peninsula has experienced well over a century 
of dynamic nation making and identity making, prior to and following the period 
of communism. It is thus an ideal place to study how individual and collective 


M.L. Galaty 

agents create heritage structures, and furthermore how those structures are reflected 
in regional Balkan landscapes. 


Albania is a small nation situated between Greece and the former Yugoslavia, along 
the Adriatic Sea. Most of Albania’s Adriatic coast is bordered by plains, large por- 
tions of which were marshy until drained in the twentieth century. The interior of 
the country is dominated by rugged mountains, most of which rise precipitously 
to relatively high elevations. Albania’s climate is Mediterranean along the coast, 
but cooler and wetter in the mountains, in particular in the north where the climate 
is Continental to Alpine. The Albanian language is Indo-European, but unrelated 
to any other extant European language. As a result of the Ottoman conquest, an 
estimated 70-80% of Albanians are Muslim, with Orthodox and Catholic Christian 
enclaves in the south and north of the country, respectively. The modern nation of 
Albania was founded in 1912 just prior to the outbreak of World War I. Its borders 
were drawn by the Great Powers such that today there are more ethnic Albanians 
who live just outside Albania, in Kosova, Macedonia, Montenegro, and to a lesser 
extent, Greece, than in it. Similar situations obtain for other nations throughout the 

There is some evidence to suggest that the Balkan region’s borders have never 
been static and unchanging, and that historically, Albania, even more than most 
other Balkan nations, has been subject to shifting frontiers, migration of populations 
in and out of the region, and multiple invasions from various directions. The south- 
ern border of Albania, shared with Greece, illustrates well these points. This border 
possesses certain characteristics that define it as a frontier zone, including low pop- 
ulation density on both sides. Today, on the Albanian side, the region is ethnically 
and religiously mixed, Greek and Albanian, Christian and Muslim. A sizable Greek 
minority lives just inside the southern Albanian border and has done for, at least, sev- 
eral centuries (Barjaba 1995). (The Greeks call southern Albania “northern Epirus,” 
thereby emphasizing their claim to the territory.) Likewise, a sizable Albanian pop- 
ulation once lived in Greek Epirus, but this population was forcibly expelled in the 
early twentieth century, and since then, Albanian place names have been system- 
atically changed to Greek, thereby erasing from the landscape any evidence of the 
former Albanian presence (Hart 1999). 

1 would make the case that this region has always been a frontier zone, beginning 
in ancient times (Galaty 2002). Based on Greek and Roman records, it is possible 
to reconstruct the names of the various peoples — often referred to as “tribes” — who 
occupied the border zone (Wilkes 1992). Some of these peoples apparently spoke 
Greek, whereas others, so-called Illyrians, spoke a non-Greek language. Still oth- 
ers were bilingual. The border zone was, and still is, dotted with hill forts, many 
of which through time became more and more like Greek-style poleis. Historical 
records indicate that some of the border tribes fought each other, while others 
entered into political confederation. Into this mix were thrust, in the Archaic period, 

4 Blood of Our Ancestors 


Greek colonies at Apollonia and Dyrrachium (modern Durres). It is likely that 
colonists interacted with local Illyrian tribes, such that through time hybrid cultures 
formed. Eventually the whole region was brought under Roman dominion. 

This brief historical sketch suggests several key points pertinent to the appli- 
cation of my heritage model to Albania. First, the region’s history, both ancient 
and recent, is made manifest in the landscape. Second, this landscape is a fertile 
source of various heritage tropes that can be — and have been — put to multiple uses 
by different constituencies through time. Third, and finally, we have good evidence 
(discussed below) that the Albanian archaeological landscape was first turned to 
heritage-making purposes at the time of the Ottoman conquest. Importantly, these 
points hold, to greater or lesser degree, for the whole of the Balkans. 

During the summer of 1998 I helped launch the Mallakastra Regional 
Archaeological Project, a large-scale, intensive regional archaeological survey 
project that sought to understand the relationship between the Greek colonists at 
Apollonia and the native Illyrians at the hill fort of Margellig (Davis et al. 1998, 
2007; Galaty et al. 2004; Runnels et al. 2004). While conducting field research, we 
found multiple examples of how the landscape had served through time as a source 
of symbolic capital necessary to manufacturing or resisting dominant themes of 
heritage orthodoxy (Galaty et al. 1999, 2009). For example, historical records and 
archaeological survey indicate that the colony had once boasted several temples, all 
of which had since nearly vanished. The location of one of these is still marked 
by a lone Doric column, allowing the place name Shtyllas, Albanian for “column.” 
According to early traveler accounts (e.g., Leake 1835:373), the temple had been 
carted away by an Ottoman pasha to be built into a new palace. This behavior — 
appropriating ancient remains for use in a new, dominating built environment — one, 
we might assume, that was questioned and resisted by local Albanians — represents 
active agency on the pasha’s part: one aspect of the landscape, the classical, linked 
to past glories, was removed to make way for a new heritage discourse, meant to 
prop up the new order. 

This Ottoman heritage discourse had limits, though, and faltered when the new 
nation of Albania declared independence in 1912. Its leaders then actively searched 
for new forms of heritage around which to build national identity. To some degree, 
these leaders focused on the classical past, the monuments of which were readily and 
dramatically visible landmarks on the (southern) Albanian landscape. But in the end 
they opted to emphasize the purported Illyrian origins of the modern Albanian peo- 
ple and language (Galaty and Watkinson 2004). In building the Albanian nation and 
in creating an Albanian national identity, Albanian leaders imagined that they were 
the direct heirs of the Illyrian tribes and that Albania’s “classical” — i.e., Greek — 
past was in fact a largely Illyrian one, perhaps influenced by Greek culture, but 
Illyrian nonetheless. Albanians could then make an autochthonous argument: since 
they were the direct descendants of the Illyrians, anywhere the Illyrians had once 
lived was presumably occupied Albanian territory. To this day, this argument under- 
pins Albanian land claims throughout the western Balkans. Unfortunately for the 
Albanians, they are not the only Balkan people who claim descent from the Illyrians, 
a claim also made in many of the former Yugoslav republics. 


M.L. Galaty 

When Enver Hoxha, Albania’s ruthless communist dictator, came to power 
following World War II, he continued to pursue the Illyrian argument, elevating 
it to the level of national heritage orthodoxy. It subsequently became a key piece of 
his xenophobic foreign policy. Since Illyrians had resisted various conquering for- 
eign powers — Greek, Roman, Byzantine — and survived, modern Albanians could, 
and would, do no less. The effects of totalitarian dictatorship on archaeology and 
on the production of national histories and identity have been very well documented 
(e.g., Dfaz-Andreu and Champion 1996; Kohl and Fawcett 1995). In short, most, 
though not all, dictators use the past as a means of controlling citizens. Hoxha, 
though, took such behavior to new extremes. For example, he referred constantly to 
Albania’s turbulent past as a means of justifying certain national policies, such as his 
program of “bunkerization” (Galaty et al. 1999, 2009). Beginning in the late 1960s 
and lasting through the early 1980s, Hoxha's government built as many as 800,000 
bunkers throughout the country, thereby transforming Albania’s rural landscape. 
These bunkers were meant to protect the country from foreign invaders, but their 
real purpose was to intimidate the Albanian people and reinforce the Communist 
Party’s hold on power. Hoxha had other, equally dramatic ways of turning the land- 
scape to his needs. For example, he had his first name inscribed on a hillside just 
outside the southern city of Berat (Fig. 4.3). Whereas Enver’s name still, to the best 
of my knowledge, graces its Berat hillside, bunkers have not fared so well. The 
dominating discourse upon which the bunkerization policy was built is now openly 
mocked, and bunkers have been slowly removed from the landscape. The number 
one Albanian souvenir is still today soapstone bunker ashtrays. 

Fig. 4.3 Enver Hoxha’s first name inscribed on a hillside near the southern Albanian town of Berat 
(Photo: Sharon Stocker) 

4 Blood of Our Ancestors 


Hoxha’s attitudes and policies had, and continue to have, however, a tremendous 
impact on Albanian national identity and the current central government’s intentions 
and goals when it comes to heritage making and management. That said, a focus on 
official, state- sponsored heritage initiatives tells only one half of the story, running 
from the top down. What happens when we consider things from the bottom up? 
What effects do central government initiatives have on rural communities, and to 
what degree do people living in such communities themselves help shape national 
heritage policies? 

A good example comes, again, from southern Albania. Once he had taken power, 
a key policy of the Hoxha government was to turn Albania into the world’s only 
completely atheist state. One means of doing so was to erase religion from the land- 
scape. Beginning in 1967, all of the country’s 2,169 churches and mosques were 
closed and the vast majority of these were demolished (O’Donnell 1999:142). In 
1998 we surveyed the remains of a church — the church of Shendelli, i.e., St. Ilias — 
that had been destroyed by communist officials. Sometime thereafter, villagers at 
nearby Shtyllas had removed a carved stone block from the ruins of the church and 
set it up as an altar. The stone itself had been taken from the archaeological site 
of Apollonia at some point in the past and built into the church, another example 
of symbolic appropriation of the local built environment. Interviews with local vil- 
lagers indicated that use of the stone as an altar had begun under communism and 
had continued through the 1990s. During communist times, the open practice of 
religion was punishable by imprisonment or, depending on the offence, death. The 
reclamation and use of the block as an altar is, therefore, an excellent example of just 
how seemingly powerless individuals might employ landscape features to challenge 
and resist official state policies. The government sought to build an Albanian iden- 
tity free of religious ties, one that emphasized myths of ethnic origin. Local people 
pushed back against these policies, emphasizing their religious identity, instead. 

Other examples of rural populations in southeast Europe producing history 
and heritage are worth noting. The so-called “Bosnian Pyramid” (Fig. 4.4), a 
few kilometers outside Sarajevo, was “discovered” by Semir Osmanagic in 2005. 
Although its identification has been roundly denounced by the Bosnian and interna- 
tional archaeological communities, local residents of Visoko, where the “pyramid” 
is located, have embraced it and Osmanagic. Simple economics may help to 
explain their popularity since the monument draws tourists and tourist dollars 
to the relatively impoverished region. However, professional archaeologists decry 
Osmanagic’s “excavations,” which are destroying the real archaeological sites that 
compose Bosnia’s true cultural heritage. Thus, Bosnia’s official heritage orthodoxy 
is being challenged by an outsider and his legions of rural supporters. It remains to 
be seen what this recent phenomenon will mean for cultural heritage management 
in Bosnia. For instance, will pride in a fictional Bosnian past translate into wider 
appreciation and protection for Bosnia’s real past [Note 1]? 

Albania has not experienced a phenomenon similar to Bosnia’s pyramid fever. 
Nevertheless, interest in history and archaeology generally runs high but varies 
in intensity depending on region. In south Albania, for example, MRAP surveyed 
and mapped the necropolis of the Greek colonial city of Apollonia, composed of 


M.L. Galaty 

Fig. 4.4 The Bosnian "Pyramid of the Sun” (Photo: Helaine Silverman) 

hundreds of burial mounds and thousands of graves (Davis et al. 2007). When we 
first began work in Apollonia’s necropolis in 1998, it was clear to us that the site 
was being badly looted. Additionally, there seemed to be little interest on the part of 
local people and authorities in stopping the looting, perhaps because much of it was 
sponsored by local mafia figures. In our experience, though, village farmers had 
little knowledge of the site’s antiquity and almost no appreciation for its heritage 
value as a vital component of the local landscape. In effect, the region’s archaeolog- 
ical heritage was not of use to local people as a vehicle for empowerment and was 
not engaged therefore in the arena of opinion and discourse. For this reason as well, 
local people were ambivalent about the looting of the necropolis. As compared to 
the Bosnian villagers of Visoko, southern Albanians ran to the opposite extreme. 

The situation in southern Albania can be contrasted with that in northern Albania. 
Since 2004 I have co-directed, with Albanian colleagues Ols Lafe and Zamir 
Tafilica, the Shala Valley Project (SVP), an interdisciplinary regional research 
project that combines programs of ethnographic, historic, and archaeological survey 
in the valley of the Shala River (Galaty 2006, 2007 ; Galaty et al. 2006; Mustafa and 
Young 2008; Schon and Galaty 2006) [Note 2]. Northern Albania is the only place 
in Europe where so-called tribal societies — with tribal chiefs and councils, blood 
feuds, an oral customary law code, etc. — survived into the twentieth century. One of 
our primary research questions is when the tribal system formed and why, and why 
it survived as long as it did. Did the northern Albanian tribes, such as Shala, form 

4 Blood of Our Ancestors 


and survive primarily as a result of extreme isolation, or did other factors condition 
their formation and survival? 

One way to address this question is to apply a world-systems theoretical frame- 
work. Using world-systems theory, we can think of Albania’s state government, 
which formed in 1912, and the Ottoman administration before it as local cores and 
the northern tribes as peripheral players (see Schon and Galaty 2006). It may be that 
the Ottomans allowed the tribes their freedom in order to draft tribal warriors as mer- 
cenaries, in particular in their fight against the Montenegrins to the north. Because of 
their position along an active frontier — separating an Ottoman-free, Orthodox Slavic 
Montenegro from Ottoman-dominated, largely Catholic northern Albania — we can 
also describe the northern Albanian tribes as occupants of a contested periphery 
( sensu Allen 1997). Most scholars of frontier life consider contested peripheries to 
be zones of active cultural creation. Indeed, I would argue that in frontier zones, 
individuals and groups are in a unique position to actively create and manipulate 
regional and national histories to their own advantage, in particular vis-a-vis exter- 
nal, dominating powers. In this regard, I have found Nick Kardulias’ concept of 
“negotiated peripherality” useful; the idea that people living in peripheral regions 
exploit their world-systemic position in important, often profitable, ways (Kardulias 
2007). Negotiated peripherality, of course, dovetails well with the agent-centered 
approach I have already outlined. Our work has revealed that the people of Shala 
actively engage their history and heritage for a wide variety of reasons and use 
them in empowering ways. They actively negotiate their peripherality and probably 
have done so since settling in the high mountains. The implications and challenges 
for national programs of heritage management in the Albanian Alps are therefore 
many, and they are very different from those that obtain in the south. 

The people of Shala themselves refer to the need for isolation to explain their 
presence in the valley and their continued existence. Oral histories indicate that 
they arrived in the valley several centuries ago and many elders can count back 
the 10+ generations of their patrilineages necessary to account for this period of 
time. By and large, our historical and archaeological data confirm these oral his- 
tories. Furthermore, according to many of our informants, their ancestors came 
either from the plain near Shkoder or from the region of Shala in Kosova. However, 
most Albanian anthropologists (e.g., Ulqini 1995) discount an initial migration from 
Kosova. If anything, northern Albanians moved to Kosova and/or adopted the clan 
name of Shala from Kosova. In terms of history and heritage making, there are 
important reasons why in the twenty-first century some residents of Shala would 
opt for an origin in Kosova. First of all, a deep historical connection between 
Albania and Kosova establishes Albanian primacy there at a time when the new 
nation’s sovereignty is in dispute. Second, and perhaps more important, a recent, 
superficial connection between the two Shalas would call into question north- 
ern Albanians’ beliefs about their own history, based on notions of isolation and 
resistance. As is the case in Bosnia, the villagers of Shala have presented a het- 
erodox heritage agenda in the face of contrasting, official, academic — in this case, 
anthropological — orthodoxy. In southern Albania, on the other hand, the received 
orthodoxy has simply been ignored. In fact, Shala’s version of history may gain 


M.L. Galaty 

some traction nationally, since most Albanians support Kosova’s recent declaration 
of independence. In the case of Shala, as was true in Bosnia, a small, marginalized 
group may have a disproportionate political effect through the medium of heritage 

The northern Albanian tribes are fiercely proud of having never been con- 
quered by an outside power, the Ottomans in particular. While this is true — and 
for Albanians this rises to the level of historical and heritage orthodoxy — it may be 
that the Ottomans chose not to subdue the northern tribes for various self-serving 
reasons, such as the need for a ready pool of mercenaries. In order to exercise some 
control, though, sometime in the eighteenth century they established the bajraktar 
system (Ulqini 1991). Bajraktars were “banner chiefs,” warriors who had taken an 
enemy’s flag or standard in battle or been given one by the Ottomans. These non- 
traditional leaders were granted freedom of inter-regional movement and special 
access to trade goods, such as guns and ammunition for instance. In return each 
bajraktar promised to raise a levy of local fighters to serve in Ottoman military 

Generally speaking, bajraktars were powerful members of their respective tribes, 
but that power had been conferred by an outside authority and was therefore held 
suspect. Today, descendants of bajraktars are proud of their family heritage, but 
most tribal members do not attach any particular importance to that heritage. When 
the Ottoman occupation ended and a federal government was established in Tirana, 
government officials sought to disarm the mountain tribes (Vickers 1999:123). To 
do so, they first undercut the power of the bajraktars and then moved to disrupt 
tribal political systems, by co-opting local chiefs for example (Vickers 1999:118). 
At the same time, they sought to open the north to economic development (Vickers 
1999:125-126). They built a road from Shkoder to Theth in Shala, for instance. The 
road paved the way for Albanian and foreign tourists and travelers, who had already 
discovered Shala in the early twentieth century. Most travelers’ accounts from this 
period romanticize the Albanian mountain tribes and tribal life and emphasize their 
isolation. Clearly, isolation was presented to early travelers as Shala’s primary sur- 
vival mechanism, whether historically true or not. Today, Shala’s residents can read 
these accounts, which have been translated into Albanian, and which reinforce the 
oral histories they already tell. 

Communism nearly destroyed the tribal system. What is left of it is slowly dis- 
appearing as elders die and tribal members emigrate. In 1991 about 200 families 
lived year round in the village of Theth. Today, there are fewer than 20. But these 
20 still actively negotiate their peripherality and are using history and heritage as 
keys to cultural survival. With the introduction of four-wheel drive SUVs, Shala 
is no longer isolated, if it ever truly was. We can make the drive from Shkoder to 
Theth in less than 3 h. Given the region’s outstanding natural beauty, it is only a 
matter of time before waves of foreign tourists crest the pass into the valley. But 
instead of bemoaning the coming tide, the residents of Shala are prepared to meet it, 
profit from it, and at the same time preserve their way of life and culture. The new 
buzz word is ecotourism, including cultural and historical tourism. As is the case 
in many parts of the world, Shala’s inhabitants believe that people will pay to visit 

4 Blood of Our Ancestors 


their valley and homes, and experience traditional northern Albanian culture. This 
of course requires that some vestige of traditional culture remains, and this presents 
something of a problem for the mountaineers: How much and what should they pre- 
serve? And if isolation produced their tribal culture in the first place, can it exist in 
the absence of isolation? 

One response to this conundrum in some areas has been active retribalization. 
Some villages, for example, still employ the oral customary law code, the Kanuni i 
Leke Dukagjinit (Gjegov and Fox 1989). Some still hold occasional tribal councils. 
Some still fight blood feuds. But all of these are being reinterpreted and born again 
in a new and different world (Schwandner-Sievers 2001). Shala’s current state of 
ongoing flux and retribalization is best viewed as radical history and heritage mak- 
ing at its most extreme. Bourdieu argues that it almost always takes some kind of 
crisis to convert a heterodox position to that of orthodoxy (1977: 168). That is clearly 
what is happening in Shala. What is not clear is what kinds of history and heritage 
will emerge once the process has run its course. 

This kind of radical reorientation presents special challenges to those government 
officials charged with managing heritage resources and developing them for tourism. 
As regards the situation in Shala and places like it, an aggressive approach might 
be to force people to adopt certain, contrived cultural stances: those that appeal to 
tourists. An even more aggressive approach would be to clear people out and sell 
the ruins of a dead culture to tourists. Another approach would be to let nature run 
its course. Whatever the official, government response might be, archaeologists are 
almost always dragged into the heritage-management decision-making process. We 
are culture brokers, whether we like it or not, and we almost always work closely 
with descendants — or purported descendants — of those we study archaeologically. 
Our interpretations of local archaeologies can make or break local, developing his- 
tories, histories that may serve to underpin strategies of cultural survival. To those 
who contest heritage and history, our opinions carry weight. Our work can be used 
to reinforce orthodox positions or legitimate heterodox challenges to orthodoxy. We 
must consider carefully our role in the history and heritage-making process, since 
the data we collect and the way they are interpreted can be used in unintended, 
unforeseen ways. 


In this chapter I have tried to develop a framework for explaining how heritage 
structures are generated. The process whereby this occurs is the result of various 
factors, including agentive actions on the part of both dominant and resisting indi- 
viduals and groups. I have argued that the creation of heritage is typically part of 
a strategy of nation building, linked to understandings of history and ethnicity via 
memory and feelings of nostalgia, and that this is particularly true in the Balkans. 
Furthermore, heritage has served this purpose for hundreds, if not thousands, of 
years, most starkly and recently under totalitarian dictatorships, with implications 
for the current political situation. It is likely that similar processes occur in nations 


M.L. Galaty 

the world over, so that archaeologists and cultural resource managers must consider 
the impact that the results of their work will have on the development and evolution 
of heritage structures. 

I also have argued that a nation’s understanding of its heritage is, at least in part, 
a reaction to regional landscapes. In the Balkans, in particular in Albania, the past, 
both recent and ancient, is visibly inscribed in the landscape, most dramatically 
in the built environment, composed of ancient cities and hill forts, churches, and 
bunkers. As such, the landscape forms the backdrop against which processes of her- 
itage creation unfold. Individuals and groups may manipulate the environment to 
meet heritage agendas, for instance by removing physical structures from the land- 
scape. Conversely, the environment itself plays an active role, by setting broad limits 
in terms of how landscape might be used, and in some cases, abused, in contests over 


1 . To the best of my knowledge, no academic articles have yet been written assessing the her- 
itage implications of the Bosnian “pyramid,” but recently a lengthy expose appeared in the 
November 2008 issue of the popular science magazine. Discover (“Pyramid Scheme?” by 
John Bohannan). Osmanagic’s website ( provides an inter- 
esting example of how the “pyramid” has been promoted in the years since its “discovery” in 

2. Annual field reports for the Shala Valley Project are available at www.millsaps. 


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2007. The early mediterranean village: Agency, material culture, and social change in neolithic 
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Chapter 5 

Re-imagining the National Past: Negotiating 
the Roles of Science, Religion, and History 
in Contemporary British Ghost Tourism 

Michele M. Hanks 

Ghosts are a part of contemporary Great Britain’s popular culture, cultural her- 
itage, and tourism industry. While ghosts do not figure in official tourism literature 
of Britain, ghosts are prominent in the tourist sectors of cities such as York and 
Edinburgh. Haunted ghost walks, a form of tourism in which tourists purchase 
guided walking tours of a city that recount the nation’s and city’s past through its 
ghosts, may seem like a benign and even frivolous mode of tourism. However, this 
form of tourism reveals a significant contestation of British cultural heritage in terms 
of attitudes toward science and religion, complicated by the tumultuous times or 
events that produce these ghosts constituting a feature of British cultural heritage. 
By examining past religious conflicts as well as by examining the significance and 
power of (ghost hunting) science, these tours challenge dominant representations of 
British cultural heritage by highlighting the explicitly grotesque, brutal, and disrup- 
tive. In this chapter, I argue that contemporary ghost tourism critically examines the 
British past along the axes of science, religion, and secularism and that these tours 
ultimately argue for an idealized understanding of the contemporary British nation 
as secular, tolerant, and, ultimately, scientific and rational. 

Ghost Tourism in Contemporary Britain 

In contemporary Britain, there are two very popular forms of ghost tourism: haunted 
ghost walks and overnight ghost hunts. The former is the focus in this chapter. Ghost 
walks typically last between 1 and 2 hours and consist of an often costumed guide 
who leads a group of tourists through a historically significant section of the city 
and describes the haunted heritage of city. 

Tourists can purchase haunted ghost walks in a range of cities across Britain 
such as Bath, Chester, Edinburgh, London, York, and Whitby. Ghost walks operate 
in cities that attract huge numbers of international tourists, in the cases of Edinburgh, 
York, and London, as well as cities that attract mainly British national tourists such 

M.M. Hanks (El) 

Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801, USA 

H. Silverman (ed.), Contested Cultural Heritage , 

DOI 10.1007/978-l-4419-7305-4_5, © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 201 1 



M.M. Hanks 

as Whitby and Scarborough. Ghost walks cost between £5 and £10 and typically 
leave in the early evening, between 7 and 9 p.m. 

These are tours in which ghosts are conceptualized as objectively real entities 
distinct from a traditional religious association and grounded in a natural world 
best understood by science. While one might assume that such tours are appeal- 
ing only to tourists who believe in ghosts or the paranormal, this is not the case. 
The tourists who purchase these ghost walks include a wide cross-section of the 
British public. According to tour guides with whom I have spoken, tourists tend to 
maintain a range of beliefs regarding ghosts. Some tourists are ardent believers who 
have had personal encounters with the paranormal. Others are highly dubious that 
ghosts exist. On each tour, the distribution of believers and skeptics varies; however, 
most guides estimate that there are slightly more tourists who believe rather than 
do not. 

Regardless of their personal beliefs and experiences, the fact that so many people 
are eager to purchase ghost tours is significant. It points to the increasing signif- 
icance and popular pervasiveness of ghosts as non-religious, naturally occurring 
entities. The 1980s to the present has been a period of increasing popular signifi- 
cance for ghosts. The number of popular publications grows each year [Note 1 ]. The 
number of ghost walks and paranormal tour companies continues to expand [Note 
2], For example, in 2008 alone, two new ghost walks opened in York. Television pro- 
gramming that foregrounds ghosts as objectively real and scientifically observable 
entities also has increased in recent years. During the 1980s and 1990s, television 
programs such as Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World , premiering in 1980, and 
Strange But True?, premiering in 1993, were incredibly popular. Following the 
popular success of Most Haunted, a British reality television program that shows 
researchers investigating the paranormal premiering on Living TV in 2002, there 
have been many similar shows [Note 3]. The demand for such programming is 
strong enough to warrant the founding of the Paranormal Channel, on Living TV 
network, in 2008. These numerous modes of popular culture and entertainment have 
enabled the emergence of a public that enjoys and seeks out ghosts and accepts the 
explanation of them as naturally occurring phenomena. 

Ghost Tours in York 

In Edward Readicker-Henderson’s (2008) travel essay in National Geographic 
Traveler, he poses the question, is York “the most haunted city in the world”? 
Indeed, the North Yorkshire section of the BBC’s website asserts that “York is the 
most haunted city in the world” (2009), citing the city’s reported 504 ghosts. This 
reputation for ghosts and paranormal activity has led York to become one of the 
centers of ghost tourism in England. In York, there are 10 regularly operating ghost 
walks as well as numerous sporadic ghost walks run through pubs. Numerous tourist 
and heritage attractions focus on ghosts, such as the Ghost Cellar at the Treasurer’s 
House, a National Trust property, and Haunted, a haunted house located in town. 
During most of York’s ghost walks, guides lead tourists through the center of the 

5 Re-imagining the National Past 


ancient walled city and focus their stories on such sites as the York Minster, the 
Shambles, and the former workhouse. 

During the course of my research in York, I have had the opportunity to partic- 
ipate numerous times in each of the main commercial ghost walks in operation. In 
listening to the narratives offered on these tours and through interviewing many of 
the tour guides, several patterns began to emerge in the types of stories that were 
frequently told to me by members of the ghost hunting community. I heard stories 
about a range of tragic past events and ghostly aberrations. These stories tended to 
feature a rhetorical emphasis either on the encounter with the ghostly or on the his- 
torical circumstances resulting in the formation of ghosts. I refer to the former as 
stories of discovery and the latter as stories of the past. Both types of stories fig- 
ure significantly in producing a particular vision of the British national past and the 
contemporary British nation. 

For example, one story of discovery that I heard on two ghost tours in York in 
2006 and that I discussed with one active member of the local ghost scene involved a 
family living in a house haunted by ghosts of the plague [Note 4]. Jim, a tour guide 
who leads one of two oldest tours in York and is personally interested and active 
in paranormal research, explained that this house has been the site of some of the 
most regular hauntings in the city. According to Jim, a family moved into the house 
without knowing its haunted reputation or traumatic association with the plague. 
Soon after moving in, the young children of the house began to have conversations 
with what their parents assumed to be imaginary friends in their bedroom. Later, the 
family pets refused to enter the room. The parents became concerned and eventually 
turned to a local member of the ghost hunting community. As a result of the ghost 
hunter’s intervention, the family came to realize that the house was haunted and 
that their children had been talking to a ghost rather than an imaginary friend. Jim’s 
telling of the story foregrounds contemporary interaction with and discovery of the 
ghosts. The nature of the historical events leading up to the emergence of the plague 
ghost is not the rhetorical emphasis. Jim’s version of the story does not diverge 
in any significant way from other tellings, but does depict paranormal science as 
beneficial to the public and adding to the general welfare. 

Another story I heard frequently in York — the story of the little girl in the 
staircase — is an example of a narrative of the past. Like the previous story, many 
of the ghost tours in York featured this narrative. I heard it on four different tours 
in 2006. When I asked several active members of the ghost hunting community 
about it, they were familiar with the story, although they had never been person- 
ally involved in researching it. John, a tour guide who is not at all active in the 
ghost hunting community and who shapes his tour using written accounts by ghost 
hunters, first told me this story in June 2006. According to John, in the late nine- 
teenth century one of the wealthier Yorkshire families held a dinner party in the 
home that became the scene of tragedy. One of the children, a little girl around 8 
years old, was eager to participate in the party but was too young and lingered by 
the top of the staircase watching the party from a distance. She somehow fell over 
the banister and the fall killed her. Her ghost is still present at the top of the stair- 
case in the house looking down to where the party was held. In John’s telling of 


M.M. Hanks 

this story (as well as others I observed), the origin of the story is unknown. How 
John or the teller of the story came to know the details of this story is obscured. 
Instead of emphasizing the discovery, the story foregrounds historical detail and 
specificity — in this case personal tragedy. 

While some narratives certainly included elements of both narrative structures (of 
discovery, of the past), they were often featured as different elements of the larger 
story. That larger story, I have come to believe, is a meta-narrative regarding the role 
of science in society. 

Narrating the Power of (Ghost Hunting) Science 

The ghost stories circulated through ghost tourism define paranormal science as 
a legitimate mode of inquiry and identify the ghostly phenomena in question as 
objectively real and collectively observable. In describing or predicting the produc- 
tion of this knowledge, objectivity, scientific rigor, and concrete evidence emerge 
as chief virtues. Sometimes, this can take the form of emphasizing the tentative 
understandings of ghosts that presently exist. For example, in her guide [Note 5] to 
haunted locations throughout Britain, well-known ghost researcher Sarah Hapgood 
notes, “this book is merely intended as a guide for those showing a healthy inter- 
est in the supernatural. At this stage in the game it is enough to investigate, for we 
are still a very long way off from obtaining sure scientific proof’ (1993:32). Here, 
this well-known ghost researcher admits that evidence is still lacking; however, 
this only serves to solidify the sense that such research activity is indeed scien- 
tifically and methodologically rigorous and transparent and that further research is 
necessary. Without explicitly discussing religion, these descriptions firmly locate 
paranormal research and belief in the realm of science, rather than spirituality, and 
imply that science constitutes the best (if not only) mechanism for achieving such 

Enacting the Superiority of Science over Religion 

During ghost tours and in reading popular ghost tour guides, the dichotomy between 
scientific, paranormal research and religious belief emerged. For example, during 
the course of interviewing the author of a popular paranormal book, I asked about his 
involvement in a particular poltergeist case. While describing this poltergeist activ- 
ity, the author emphasized the superiority of paranormal or scientific research over 
work done by traditional religious organizations. In particular, he punctuated the 
difference between the Anglican Church and contemporary paranormal researchers 
in their approaches to paranormal events. He said, “if you’re having these sorts of 
problems [poltergeist events] and you get in touch with the Church you [would be] 
lucky if they come to do anything. . .maybe they come and toss around some holy 
water, but, at the end of the day, it’s just that, water. What is that going to do for 
you?. . . That’s all they’ll likely do for you.’’ By contrast, the author emphasized 
that the research team to which he belonged and good researchers in general were 

5 Re-imagining the National Past 


committed to investigating the history of a property and trying to get to the bottom 
of each occurrence. He emphasized that their approach was more likely to yield 
conclusive results, and he was very proud of the fact that his group had been able 
to help several people after religious groups failed them. In his discussion of the 
distinction between ghost hunting and religion, a commitment to historical investi- 
gation and scientific research distinguishes ghost hunting from religion and supports 
the superiority of historical, scientific ghost hunting over religion in dealing with the 

Many of the ghost tours I have observed mirror this emphasis on the superi- 
ority of ghost hunting as a science to other modes of religious inquiry. In fact, 
in many stories of discovery, guides emphasize that the family experiencing a 
haunting often turns to religious officials before resorting to ghost hunters. I have 
observed such stories in all but two of York’s ghost tours. Such narratives depict 
religious officials as well-meaning although ultimately ineffective, whereas ghost 
hunters, equipped with the tools of science, come across as best able to unravel the 
mysterious phenomena in question. 

Teaching the Past Through Ghosts 

Much paranormal programming and, indeed, ghost tours foreground the signifi- 
cance of learning about ghosts, the paranormal, and the past. Many of the tour 
guides 1 have met suggest that their tours are beneficial to the public in the sense 
that they convey useful information about ghosts while also teaching tourists about 
York’s past. 

During the course of an interview, James, a long-time leader of a ghost tour 
who has an active interest in the paranormal, described the investigation of a local 
home by a paranormal group he knew. The woman who lived in the house had been 
experiencing strange sensations and hearing strange noises. She suspected that the 
house might be haunted. The team investigated the history of the house and spent 
a few nights using a range of technologies to monitor the house. Eventually the 
team determined that the house was haunted and they thought the most likely the- 
ory of the haunting was that a woman who was found murdered in the house in 
the late nineteenth century remained there. In describing this process of investiga- 
tion to me, James emphasized that the woman who owned the house “didn’t even 
know the history of the place [the house]. She had been living there for almost 
5 years and didn’t know a thing about it. It’s a shame.” For James, the contem- 
porary resident’s lack of familiarity with the local past, in this case the past of 
her own home, was an unfortunate deficit that ghost tours and paranormal inves- 
tigators were in a position to address. Indeed, in conversations with active ghost 
hunters as well as tour guides, there was a shared sense that part of the project of 
paranormal investigation and certainly ghost tours was to inform people about the 
past. One tour guide told me in July 2006, “sure I tell ghost stories to tourists but 
I’m also telling them about what happened in the past. People should know these 


M.M. Hanks 

Many of the ghost tour guides I encountered between 2006 and 2009 understand 
their public role as one of great importance. Indeed, many conceive of themselves 
as able to provide the general public with the historical narratives and nuance that 
(they believe) academic historians are rarely able to impart. Stories of discovery 
often feature tales of mistaken historical authorities, namely scholars or experts who 
first rejected the knowledge drawn from ghostly encounters only to later realize its 
usefulness. They invoke these stories to extol the virtues of scientific objectivity, 
here defined as a willingness to maintain an open mind to the claims and knowledge 
of all people. 

The story of Harry Martindale is one such example. According to all of the 
ghost tour versions of the story I have heard, in 1953, Martindale was working as a 
plumber’s apprentice to restore the plumbing in the Treasurer’s House in York (now 
a part of the National Trust). In the course of this project, he was surprised to see a 
group of Roman soldiers sadly march across the basement in which he was work- 
ing. In narratives of this paranormal experience, guides and enthusiasts emphasize 
that Martindale noticed features of Roman life in Britain of which contemporary 
historians and archaeologists in 1953 were unaware, such as cloth uniforms. 

This narrative is one of the most famous and frequently circulated narratives in 
York. It is featured in all the York ghost tours, in the Yorkshire section of every ghost 
guidebook I have seen, and even in the National Trust. In fact, the National Trust, 
in addition to featuring an exhibit in the main part of its York property, maintains a 
“ghost cellar” open to visitors (for an extra fee) so they can see the very place where 
Martindale encountered ghosts. 

Here, ghostly encounters are depicted as a means of achieving a more objective 
vision of the past than the knowledge produced by professional historians. They 
assert that such a commitment to the values of science enables the accumulation 
of greater and more detailed knowledge. There is a tendency, then, for ghost tours 
to present ghosts and paranormal science as able to access information unavailable 
to other parties because of their personal encounters with, and scientific monitor- 
ing of, the remainders of the past itself. In fact, the narratives of the past produced 
by ghost hunters are given greater urgency by their personally immediate and yet 
“scientifically” regulated contact with the spirits of the past. Here, despite the use 
of what many would identify as pseudoscience, ghost tours rhetorically extol the 
virtue and values of science, albeit a science founded on personal contact with 
the past. 

Narratives such as Martindale’s encounter with the Romans demonstrate the 
democratic nature of ghosts and critique the alleged elitism of modes of authori- 
tative historical and scientific knowledge production. In the retellings I heard on the 
ghost tours (although not at the National Trust), all of the guides uniformly empha- 
sized that Martindale was just a young apprentice when he saw the Roman ghosts. 
He had no background in historical research and was initially afraid to share his 
vision of the Romans with the public or historical authorities since they differed 
so strongly from common media depictions of Romans at the time. These retellings 
emphasize the universally shared capacity to contribute useful knowledge to popular 
understandings of the past, particularly through their encounter with ghosts. 

5 Re-imagining the National Past 


During the course of numerous conversations and interviews with tourists in 
York, the degree to which ghost tours inform tourists’ understandings of the past 
has become apparent. When I ask tourists to identify significant events in York’s 
past and then explain how they learned about them, many of the tourists who pur- 
chased ghost tours refer to the past events foregrounded on the tour and cite the ghost 
tour as the source of that knowledge. Ultimately, the tourists generally embrace the 
visions and interpretations of the past articulated by ghost tour guides as historical 

The Ghostly Interpretation of British Secularism 

Especially illuminating is the systematic pursuit of ghosts as evidence of past reli- 
gious conflict. The ghost record of England in general and York in particular is 
littered with spirits resulting from a range of religious conflicts. The confrontations 
between Vikings and early Christians and the Reformation battles between Catholics 
and Protestants figure particularly prominently. 

All of the ghost tours I took in York, London, and Edinburgh in 2006 and 2007 
feature at least one ghost narrative of the past focusing specifically on past religious 
tumult. Figure 5.1 shows that these stories constituted a significant portion of each 
ghost tour I observed in York. 

The narratives of the ghosts from the many religious battles fought in 
England, especially the conflicts between Vikings and Christians and Catholics and 
Protestants during the Reformation, define religious pluralism or secularism as chief 
components of an ideal social order. For example, several of the York ghost tours 
featured narratives of the religious conflict between Vikings and early Christians. 
According to one story that Jim, a ghost tour guide, told in July 2006, during 
the eighth century, Vikings invaded some portions of England. While inhabiting 

Ghost Tour 


Ghost Tour 


Ghost Tour 


Ghost Tour 


Ghost Tour 


Stories of 







Stories of 








Other stories 






Fig. 5.1 Chart of the composition of York’s ghost tours, based on my observation of these tours 
in July 2006. I had the opportunity to observe each tour twice, and in cases where there was a 
different composition of stories (as is the case in Ghost Tour B), I averaged the numbers 


M.M. Hanks 

England, many of the Vikings engaged in violent conflict with the early British 
Christians over religious freedom. Early Christians would allegedly capture Vikings 
and force them to convert to Christianity or kill them in gruesome ways. Similarly, 
Vikings would capture early Christians and allegedly murder them in revenge and 
sacrifice them during certain rituals [Note 6], 

Some ghosts remain from this period of religious conflict; however, they are quite 
unlike other, interactive ghosts in that they rarely appear in fully embodied human 
form. According to Jim, a tour guide, one of the most haunted areas is a local church 
where the early Christians tortured the Vikings to death. Spirits of the Vikings are 
more likely to appear in the form of bursts of light, cold spots, or incomprehensible 

The ghosts of the Vikings and early Christians rarely interact with contemporary 
Yorkshire residents. They do not touch or directly communicate with them. Here it 
is worth evoking Judith Richardson’s (2003) point that ghosts function as a form of 
social memory. She noted that the ghosts of the Hudson Valley she studied rarely 
speak or interact with contemporary residents, and she argued that 

The fact that so many of the ghosts of the region are so inchoate or faded, so incapable 
of being identified, has aesthetic and historical implications. Embedded in these descrip- 
tions of ghosts is a problem of communication, a loss of essential information, an inability 
to articulate. . . the inarticulacy that defines so many instances of haunting in the Hudson 
Valley also shadows problems of historical continuity, of perennial change as repeatedly 
and cumulatively obscuring the regional past and undermining historical understanding. 
(Richardson 2003:27) 

While Richardson conceptualizes the communicative failures of ghosts as prob- 
lems of historical amnesia, something else is going on in York. The problem is not 
the silence, inchoateness, and fadedness of some of Yorkshire’s ghosts; rather, they 
illustrate the presumed progress of religious tolerance in British social life. These 
narratives suggest that the British have moved so far beyond these conflicts between 
the Vikings and Christians that they are barely able to fully understand the ghosts of 
the events. On one of Jim’s tours, while he was telling the graphic story of the tortur- 
ing and violence between the Vikings and Christians, one female tourist was visibly 
either alarmed or disgusted. Jim reassured her that “all of this happened a long time 
ago,” underlining the historical distance between the present and the past while also 
perhaps implying that contemporary Britain is free of such practices. If, for the resi- 
dents of the Hudson Valley, the inability to remember is a product of failed historical 
memory, for the residents of York it is a vindication of their progress in the realm of 
secularism and multiculturalism. 

These stories can be taken as a form of “mythico-history” (Malkki 1995). Lisa 
Malkki describes mythico-history as “represent[ing] an interlinked set of ordering 
stories which converge to make (or remake) a world. . . [It involves] a process of 
world making because it constructs] categorical schemata and thematic configura- 
tions . . . relevant and meaningful in confronting both the past. . .and the pragmatics 
of everyday life” (1995:65). I suggest that the retellings of the conflicts between the 
Christians and the Vikings found on ghost walks constitute historically grounded 

5 Re-imagining the National Past 


parables warning broadly of the problems of religious conflict and more menacingly 
warning everyone of religious plurality if not held in check. 

Another ghost of England’s tumultuous religious past who often emerges in many 
Yorkshire ghost tours is Thomas Percy, Earl of Northumberland. I encountered his 
story many times on tours. In the ghost tour run by Kevin, a guide who is not active 
in ghost hunting but draws some of his stories from ghost hunters, Percy serves as a 
ghostly reminder of the religious strife engendered by the Protestant Reformation, 
under the reigns of Henry VIII, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. According to Kevin’s tour, 
while Percy was alive, he led a failed Catholic revolt against Queen Elizabeth I and 
was beheaded for this crime in York in 1572. After his execution, the authorities 
buried his body but displayed his head on a pole until one of his loyal servants stole 
it back in the middle of the night. The servant buried the head where he believed 
Percy’s body to rest; however, according to ghost hunters and locals, the servant 
buried the head erroneously across town. Since that time, residents have allegedly 
seen Percy’s headless ghost crossing the city of York looking for his head. This 
narrative serves as a warning against the intermingling of religion and the state. 
Indeed, while telling this story Kevin editorialized that this was a good example of 
“why the government should not get involved with religion.” Chuckles of agreement 
by the mainly British tour group suggested that the tourists agreed with Kevin’s 

The Progress of the British Nation 

Interestingly, the ghosts who emerge as a result of religious conflict generally reflect 
conflicts that are widely understood as resolved. The external threat of Vikings no 
longer exists. The conflict between Catholics and Protestants, while still pressing 
in some parts of the UK, is not often addressed in ghost tours or stories as a press- 
ing English concern. The problems and conflicts engendered in the Reformation are 
conceptualized as largely resolved. Despite these resolutions, there are religious 
conflicts, albeit not necessarily violent ones, that are thought to be more press- 
ing (the spread of Islam in Britain, for example). The emphasis on ghosts of such 
resolved conflicts can be seen as a further attempt to obscure ongoing contemporary 
religious conflicts. For example, governmental authorities have curtailed the ability 
of Neo-Pagans, Druids, and Wiccans to practice their spirituality in British public 
spaces. Barbara Bender (1998) has illustrated the ways in which “untraditional” 
modes of British spirituality (particularly those harkening back to an imagined 
pre-national polytheism) are erased, sometimes violently, from public spaces (in 
particular Stonehenge). 

In addition, many ghost tour guides, as well as published authors like Sarah 
Hapgood, conceive of religious institutions as inciting conflict and tension and plac- 
ing damaging restrictions on members. I have discussed the ways in which some 
ghost hunters in conversation assert the superiority of ghost hunting and science over 
religion; however, many ghost tours and published accounts of hauntings also offer 
stories focusing on the shortcomings of religion. For example, in published guides to 


M.M. Hanks 

British ghosts (Brooks 1994; Evans 2006; Hapgood 1993; Jones 2002) I discovered 
several popular hauntings explained on the premise that the early Catholic Church 
caused religious servants to suffer by demanding chastity. One such story, found in 
Jones’ anthology of contemporary British ghost stories, asserts that a monk and a 
nun fell in love and began a relationship; as a result, state authorities executed both. 
This story and other related stories critique the intermingling of church and state 
and the church’s restrictions on social behavior (here depicted as natural). Several 
York tours feature a similar story about an illicit affair between a nun and a monk. 

In addition to narratives of religious conflict, many York ghost tours feature sto- 
ries bom of religious conflict that play a more complicated role in championing the 
value of secularism and science. During the course of my fieldwork in 2006 and 
2007, I encountered two distinct versions of a popular ghost narrative — the story 
of St. Margaret, a martyred Catholic who was eventually killed by violent forces 
of Henry Vlll’s reformation. In the version told by Kevin — a guide who relies on 
written accounts rather than personal work in ghost hunting — the state executed St. 
Margaret because she preserved her Catholic faith and her ghost now appears to 
visitors to the area in the form of a positive, reassuring light in or near her alleged 
former home on the Shambles in York [Note 7]. According to Kevin, some visi- 
tors take great comfort and religious confirmation in this encounter. Indeed, Kevin 
explained that some Catholic visitors make a special point of visiting the site. 

Interestingly, many other tour guides, particularly those who are active or versed 
in local paranormal research, are highly skeptical of this narrative. For example, on 
one tour in June 2006, Jim noted that “now some guides will say that this house 
[standing in front of the house in question] is visited by the ghost of a saint. I hear 
that some of the people on his tour really like that. . .the problem is it just isn’t so.” 
In Jim’s prevailing counter narrative, he explains that the house in question was not 
the actual home of St. Margaret and, based on historical evidence, she actually lived 
across the street. Jim cites the fact that the house in which people experience St. 
Margaret was not her actual home as grounds for skepticism. Jim’s telling of the 
story does not differ significantly from other ghost guides. 

This emphasis on the lack of factual evidence may indicate that many ghost walk 
guides are highly skeptical of traditional religious practices that focus on a deity or 
other sacred beings. Some tour guides, such as Jim, joke about the pleasure reli- 
gious visitors experience when visiting the site. In the ghost hunters’ telling of the 
improbability of this haunting, the power of a secular science trumps religious faith. 
Through an objective and thorough investigation of the history of this saint’s past in 
York, ghost hunters believe that they are able to uncover the historical reality, thus 
shedding greater insight into both past events and present supernatural realities, bet- 
ter than religious authorities are able to do. Thus, the ghost hunters transform a 
narrative that could be seen as lauding faith into a parable of the importance of 
secularism and scientific objectivity. 

In this rhetorical recasting, the ghost hunters construct themselves as part of a 
British modernity that is at once both secular in its tolerance of all religious systems 
and scientific and objective in its stance toward these systems of belief. In this narra- 
tive of St. Margaret, ghost hunters and guides like Jim imply that objective science 

5 Re-imagining the National Past 


is the ultimate tool for uncovering the past and that religious-based systems of 
belief are ultimately not trustworthy. As these narratives of Vikings, Christians, and 
Reformation spirits cumulatively suggest, the ghostly narratives produced by ghost 
hunters and popularly dispersed by ghost tours (and literature) represent contempo- 
rary England in secular, tolerant terms. Such representations of British secularism 
misrepresent the political and social reality of the contemporary state of religion 
in England. Despite the ghost hunters’ representation of England as a secular state 
that embraces all religious faiths and persuasions, it is important to remember that 
England maintains an official religion and that the Church of England enjoys a vari- 
ety of unique fiscal and political privileges. Religious studies scholar Ninian Smart 
noted the ways in which the contemporary British state remains steeped in religion. 
In 1987, he noted that 

the symbolism of the Queen as the Head of the Church means that other religions, even 
if more vigorous, have the appearance of being second class — Catholicism, Judaism, 
Methodism, Nonconformist varieties, Sikhism, Islam, Hinduism, and so forth. . . What the 
situation presents. . .is the identification of official religion with the supreme symbol of 
national identity and loyalty. In events such as Coronations, Royal Weddings, we see cele- 
brated traditional English or British nationalism, which has no explicit place for the ‘new 
British', that is people who are citizens but historically have connections to religious and 
cultural traditions outside of the British Isles. (Smart 1987:385) 

Similarly, Anne Rowbottom, in her ethnographic engagement with popular 
British understandings of the monarchy, argues that devotion to the monarchy serves 
as a form of civil religion. Noting that the Queen serves as the ultimate national sym- 
bol in the UK, she writes that “the monarchy may symbolize unity, but at the same 
time it emphasizes difference” (Rowbottom 2002:39). Indeed, while serving as the 
symbol of the nation, the Queen also maintains her role as the head of the Church 
of England and thus inclusion in the nation becomes bound up with Anglicanism. 

While ghost hunters may deride a past ripe with religious conflict, the British 
present includes many tensions over the place of religion in the nation. Ghost 
hunters are unlikely to address the political role of the Church of England. By 
emphasizing secularism and praising tolerance of the present, ghost hunters strategi- 
cally dismiss discussion and contestation over religious freedom in England, while 
simultaneously casting science as the civic devotion par excellence. 

Ghostly Absences: Questions of National Belonging 

In examining the construction of secularism and religiosity in these ghost narratives, 
ghostly absences are as telling as the presences. In the narratives I have recounted 
here, there is a noticeable absence of stories pertaining to contemporary religions 
other than Christianity in England. This is not accidental. In the course of reading the 
writing of ghost hunters, interviewing them, and observing their tours, I encountered 
no stories that emphasize Britain’s contemporary or historical religious plurality, 
excluding Viking spirituality and Reformation era Catholicism and Protestantism. 
Ghosts of the Jewish, Sikh, Muslim, or Hindu residents of Britain are conspicuously 
absent. Notably, the vast majority of ghosts pertaining to religious conflict are drawn 


M.M. Hanks 

from the distant past. There are, of course, ghosts of the more recent past (the last 
century, for example) that populate the ghost record; however, these ghosts rarely 
emerge from religious or social upheaval and are more often the result of personal 
or family crisis. There are religious crises and tragedies that occurred in England in 
both the last century and throughout the historical record that involve other religious 
groups; however, these remain absent from the popular ghost record. Here, ghost 
researchers’ claims to scientific objectivity and impartiality naturalize the historical 
omissions and inclusions. 

The absence of any ghostly evidence of Britain’s religiously plural society is all 
the more remarkable considering ghost hunters’ ability to appropriate the ghosts of 
external populations (such as Vikings and Romans) into the national repertoire of 
ghosts. For example, in telling narratives of the Viking presences in York, ghost 
hunters conceptualize these ghosts — while notably the reminders of an invading 
population — as part o/Britain’s national repertoire of ghosts. 

Indeed, the ghostly inhabitants of York are often framed in explicitly nationalist 
terms, with many narratives claiming that England is the most haunted country in 
the world. In such claims, the nation becomes the repository of ghosts rather than 
the geographical or symbolic land of the nation. Such claims to hauntedness, stated 
in nationalist terms, illustrate the degree to which national identity is implicated in 
producing understandings of the ghostly. Benedict Anderson has written that the 
nation “is an imagined political community . . . imagined as both inherently limited 
and sovereign” and that it is “imagined because the members of even the smallest 
nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of 
them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion” (1983:5). This 
emphasis on the imaginary is analytically useful here. Ghosts, I believe, constitute 
both a mechanism for historical memory and a metaphor for citizenship. While the 
British nation is able and willing to transform the externality of Romans and Vikings 
into a variant of the British national past, that transformational ability is not extended 
to the multitude of religions that have also become part of the British nation [Note 
8]. Indeed, here, the British nation remains presumably secular, although more aptly 

In his account of race in Britain, Paul Gilroy examines the relationship between 
blackness and Britishness and argues that Britishness has been racially defined as 
white. He notes, “blacks are represented in contemporary British politics and culture 
as external to and estranged from the imagined community that is the nation” (Gilroy 
1987:153). I would add, drawing on critiques of religious inclusion in Britain (e.g., 
Rowbottom 2002), that Britain is not only raced as white, but also religiously iden- 
tified as Anglican/Christian (although this can often take the misleading form of 
appearing as a form of secularism). 

The externality of other religious traditions, like that of other races, is enacted 
in these stories. Gilroy’s analysis of the perceived externality of blacks in con- 
temporary Britain helps to explain the absence of non-white ghosts in the ghostly 
demography. These ghostly encounters reify understandings of Britishness and 
British history as respectively Anglican (or at least Christian) and as a force that 
has shaped many places of the world while not being shaped by those “external” 
populations. The ghosts and ghostly narratives I examined above are very public 
ghosts. More often than not they occupy sites that are recognized to be somehow 

5 Re-imagining the National Past 


historically or religiously significant places. Michel de Certeau’s observation that 
“stories carry out a labor that constantly transforms places into spaces or spaces 
into places” (1984:118) provides a lens for understanding the ghostly transforma- 
tions at work. Indeed, such stories determine and define the nature of the space. In 
the case of the narratives of the British ghosts, claims regarding state religiosity and 
secularism populate the space. 

Through ghost tourism, understandings and valuations of spirituality, secularism, 
and their role in the state are inscribed onto the spaces of Britain. Such inscrip- 
tions play several roles. First, these narrative transformations construct and confirm 
British space as secular, which masks the encoding of this space as Anglican and 
hostile to other religious systems. Furthermore, these narratives define the present 
as the culmination of British social progress, which here comes to mean the easing 
of tensions between waning religions. Indeed, the lesson of this progress remains 
ambiguous in these stories. On the one hand, it suggests that religious plural- 
ity is inevitable and the state must learn, and, indeed, over time has learned, to 
accommodate it while also suggesting that this plurality is itself the root of the prob- 
lem. Both narrative threads ultimately construct religions other than the unmarked 
Anglicanism, or perhaps even Protestantism more broadly, as external or other to 
the core of the nation. 


In many of the ghost hunters’ narratives, scientific rigor, rationality, and empiricism 
emerge as the social ideal, capable of contributing to social welfare and national 
self-understanding, whereas religion remains a secondary, less effective force in 
society. Contemporary British ghost hunters’ recourse to science, unlike recourses 
to religion, conceptualizes interaction with the ghostly as a universal category of 
experience. Debbora Battaglia has conceptualized such engagements with science 
as technoscience spirituality, defining it as a "hard faith in technoscience future” 
(2005:24). This hard faith in science is evident in the ways in which ghost hunters 
conceptualize and approach the project of producing ghostly knowledge. This chap- 
ter has demonstrated the ways in which such technoscientific spirituality, here ghost 
hunting, can be implicated in an ordering and reordering of the politics of religion 
and statehood. 

Ultimately, ghost walks are a touristic moment in which notions of the British 
past and ideas regarding the ideal British nation are contested, challenged, and 
eventually reordered. Rather than celebrate the British past, as many forms of 
contemporary British heritage seek to do, ghost walks criticize and challenge its 
tendencies toward religious conflict and antiscience. 


1. While the present historical era is especially ripe with ghosts, the British past has seen other 
such moments in which popular engagement with the paranormal or supernatural has reached 
epic heights. Recent historical scholarship has examined the significance of nineteenth-century 


M.M. Hanks 

spiritualism in Britain (cf. Oppenheimer 1985; Owen 1989, 2004). Other historians have exam- 
ined the transition from magical or religious explanations of the paranormal to ones grounded 
in the natural world (see Davies 1999; Waite 2003). 

2. Certainly, the massive popularity of the Harry Potter book series and resulting films as well 
as other fictional and popular works focusing on the supernatural or paranormal has also 
contributed to the widespread interest in ghosts. 

3. Interestingly, Most Haunted appears on American cable television on the Travel Channel, 
underlining the general significance of ghosts to the tourist industry. 

4. When referring to both the ghost walk company and the tour guides, I try to obscure their 
identities as much as possible. All guides and interviewees are referred to by a pseudonym 
and I do not refer specifically to any of the ghost tours as a means of protecting the privacy of 

5. Many such guides exist. They are a form of tourist literature for paranormal enthusiasts inter- 
ested in visiting Britain’s many haunted locations. They tend to provide information about 
accessibility and hours of operation, as well as accounts of the alleged ghosts that haunt the 

6. I am not concerned here with the historical accuracy of these claims but rather with the 
ideological work they perform. 

7. The Shambles is one of the oldest preserved medieval streets in Britain. It is now a hub of 
tourist activity in York that lives in the shadow of the York Minster. 

8. Another compelling component of this nationalist discourse of inclusion and exclusion is the 
inability to reckon the British nation in terms of its former colonies or territories. 


Anderson, Benedict. 

1983. Imagined communities. London: Verso. 

Battaglia, Debbora. 

2005. Insiders’ voices in outerspace. In E.T. culture: Anthropology in outerspaces, ed. Debbora 
Battaglia, 1-37. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 

Bender, Barbara. 

1998. Stonehenge: Making space. New York, NY: Berg. 

Brooks, John. 

1994. The good ghost guide: A gazetteer of over a thousand British hauntings. Norwich: Jarrold 

Davies, Owen. 

1999. Witchcraft, magic, and culture: 1736-1951. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 

De Certeau, Michel. 

1984. The practice of everyday life. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 

Evans, Sian. 

2006. Ghosts: Spooky stories and eerie encounters from the National Trust. London: National 
Trust Books. 

Gilroy, Paul. 

1987. ‘There ain ’t no Black in the Union Jack’: The cultural politics of race and nation. Chicago, 
IL: University of Chicago Press. 

Hapgood, Sarah. 

1993. 500 British ghosts and hauntings. London: Foulsham Press. 

Jones, Richard. 

2002. Haunted Britain and Ireland. London: Metro Books. 

Malkki, Lisa H. 

1995. Purity and exile: Violence, memory, and national cosmology among Hutu refugees in 
Tanzania. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. 

5 Re-imagining the National Past 


Oppenheimer, Janet. 

1985. The other world: Spiritualism and psychical research in England, 1850-1914. Cambridge, 
MA/New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. 

Owen, Alexandra. 

1989. The darkened room: Women, power and spiritualism in late Victorian England. Chicago, 
IL: University of Chicago Press. 

2004. The place of enchantment: British occultism and the culture of the modern. Chicago, IL: 

University of Chicago Press. 

Readicker-Henderson, Edward. 

2008. The most haunted city in the world? National Geographic October: 92-101. 

Richardson, Judith. 

2003. Possessions: The history and uses of haunting in the Hudson Valley. Cambridge, MA: 

Harvard University Press. 

Rowbottom, Anne. 

2002. Subject positions and “real royalists”: Monarchy and vernacular civil religion. In British 
subjects: An anthropology of Britain, ed. Nigel Rapport, 3 1 — 48. Oxford, MA: Berg. 

Smart, Ninian. 

1987. Church, party, and state. In Religion, state and society in modern Britain, ed. P. Badham, 
370^-00. London: Macmillian. 

Waite, Gary K. 

2003. Heresy, magic, and witchcraft in early modern Europe. New York, NY: Palgrave. 

Chapter 6 

Collecting and Repatriating Egypt’s Past 
Toward a New Nationalism 

Salima Ikram 


Egypt has a rich and diverse cultural heritage that spans over 6,000 years. The most 
well known period is the Pharaonic era that lasted some 3,000 years, and that has 
mesmerized people thereafter. Indeed, when people think of Egypt, they rarely think 
of the modern state — they think of Egypt’s Pharaonic past in terms of its “mirabilia”: 
pyramids and mummies that evoke the exotic and the esoteric. This perception has 
influenced current attitudes to the cultural remains from this era, objects and mon- 
uments that have come to be regarded as the patrimony not only of the modern-day 
Egyptians but also of the entire world. The same fascination is one reason why 
Egyptian artifacts are one of, if not the most, popular exhibits in any museum, 
regardless of whether the museum is in London, Paris, New York, or Berlin. 

Most major museums in Europe and the USA contain a large number of objects 
from Egypt. These collections are rooted, for the most part, in the cabinets of 
curiosities found in aristocratic homes from the sixteenth century onward. The 
mania for collecting and acquiring Egyptian antiquities peaked during the imperial- 
istic and colonial nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a time when the cultures 
of subject nations, or those found “inferior” to the European ones, were acquired by 
these nations as a matter of course, and their iconography and imagery appropriated 
by them (Reid 2002; Colla 2007). 

At this time Egypt, like Iraq, Syria, Greece, and many parts of Eastern Europe, 
was under Ottoman control. For the most part, the Ottomans were relatively uncon- 
cerned with the antiquities found in the countries within their control as objects of 
historical worth, and tended to view them in economic terms, as gifts or objects 
for sale or in exchange for European technology. This encouraged the Europeans 
to view these countries as their personal hunting grounds for antiquities, and con- 
tributed to the large-scale removal of colossal statuary, entire buildings, and a 
vast range of other objects to private and public collections in the West. Western 

S. Ikram (El) 

Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology and Egyptology, The American University 

in Cairo, Cairo, Egypt 


H. Silverman (ed.), Contested Cultural Heritage, 

DOI 10.1007/978-l-4419-7305-4_6, © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 201 1 



S. Ikram 

European museum collections, as well as those in North America, were augmented 
by souvenirs brought back by wealthy tourists, the booty seized by occupying 
armies, the gifts from the then rulers of Egypt to their European counterparts, the 
acquisitions (legitimate and illegitimate) made by individuals or governments, and 
the fruits of both legal and illegal excavations (Greener 1966; Vercoutter 1992). 
Whatever their origins, foreign museum collections have served to educate and 
inform people about Egypt’s history and culture, and a wider, more global past. 
Indeed, these artifacts are Egypt’s best ambassadors to the rest of the world and are 
also a vital part of Egypt’s own past and contemporary identity. 

Egyptian Law and Problems of Trade in Pharaonic Antiquities 

Not all the artifacts that are now found outside Egypt arrived there by legal means. 
Many objects were acquired in direct contravention of antiquities laws [Note 1], The 
earliest law on record concerning Egyptian antiquities was an Ordinance passed on 
August 15, 1835 (Khater 1960). It was designed to protect the antiquities of Upper 
Egypt in particular (although the law was applied to the whole country) from the 
agents of foreign governments and tourists who were purchasing or seizing antiqui- 
ties by the sack full. The Ordinance of 1835 banned the export of antiquities without 
a proper permit and stated that all antiquities in the government’s possession and 
all those that resulted from future excavations were to be deposited in the newly 
established Egyptian Museum located in the area of al-Azbakiya garden (Maspero 
1914:Introduction). According to the Ordinance, this museum was to be built and 
organized following the European museums of the time; its construction was placed 
under the direction of Hakiakine Effendi and the museum itself under Yousouf Zia- 
effendi, who was also put in charge of the earliest incarnation of an Antiquities 
Service [Note 2]. Guards were to be posted at sites, and looting or the use of the 
antiquities as quarries by the locals was strictly prohibited. The reasons for pro- 
tecting the monument as outlined in the Ordinance did not explicitly mention the 
economy, but that no doubt played a part in the passing of this law. More explic- 
itly the law mentions a need to protect the integrity of the ancient remains, and a 
sense of national pride. Part of the Ordinance reads, “Ces sculptures, ces pierres 
ornees, et tous ces objets de meme nature. . .sont exposes aux yeux du public de 
toutes les nations, et concourent puissamment a la gloire du pays qui les possede” 
(“These sculptures, these ornate stones, and all these objects of the same nature. . . 
are exposed to the eyes of the public of all nations, and speak powerfully about the 
glory of the country that possesses them”) (Khater 1960:271). 

Subsequent laws were passed in 1869 and 1874 dealing with the ownership of 
antiquities and laws regulating their export, even when they had been excavated 
with permits (Osman 1999; Khater 1960:274-279). These were more firmly and 
clearly articulated in the Decree of 19 March 1869 and the Order of 16 May 1880, 
which forbade the acquisition, sale, or export of antiquities without a license from 
the proper authorities and provided rules for excavation. Many of these laws were 
encouraged by the Frenchman Auguste Mariette, an early head of the Antiquities 

6 Collecting and Repatriating Egypt’s Past 


Service and the Director of the Bulaq Museum, a later, public incarnation of the 
Azbakiya Museum [Note 3], He wrote that Egypt had two museums: the Bulaq 
Museum and the entire country, which was filled with monuments (Khater 1960:62). 
He eloquently argued for more stringent rules and an end to easy export permits 
for antiquities. He pointed out, “Le temps ou Lord Elgin enlevait les bas-reliefs 
du Parthenon est passe. L’Egypte possede les plus vielles archives qui existent de 
l’histoire de l’humanite. Ce sont les parchemins de son antique noblesse, et elle 
entend les garder” (“The time when Lord Elgin could remove the bas-reliefs of 
the Parthenon is past. Egypt possesses the oldest archives that exist in the history of 
humankind. These are the parchments of her noble antiquity, and Egypt understands 
she must protect them.”) (Khater 1960: 63, quoting Palace Archives). Mariette was 
an ardent supporter of the antiquities laws, and zealously protected his charges, even 
when his own sovereign, the Empress Eugenie, requested objects from the Bulaq 
Museum collection as gifts (Greener 1966). 

Further rules for excavation permits were laid out in the Decree of 17 November 
1891, which forbade excavation in search of antiquities unless a permit had been 
granted by the General Director of Museums and Excavations and approved by the 
Permanent Committee of Antiquities. Throughout this period foreign excavations 
that had been approved by the relevant agencies were allowed to dig and to take a 
portion of what they had discovered to their own countries; this was a system that 
came to be known as “partage” (Khater 1960:280-284). 

Then, an additional deterrent against illegal antiquities dealing, particularly at 
the local level, arrived in the form of the Law of 12 August 1897, which laid out the 
various punishments for people excavating without a permit and decreed that any 
antiquities thus extracted had to be returned to the government. Gradually, the laws 
that were passed during the nineteenth century laid the foundations for the idea of a 
national heritage that belonged to and helped to define the Egypt. 

The next significant law to be passed regarding antiquities was Law 14 issued in 
1912. It basically clarified and unified all previously passed laws regarding excava- 
tion, ownership, and sale of antiquities and provided a list of punishments for any 
infringement of the law. It stated that Egyptian antiquities were the property of the 
state and could only leave Egypt with proper permits issued by the government. It 
clearly articulated the rules for official antiquities shops. It also laid out the rights 
and responsibilities of excavators (Khater 1960:286-291). 

Incidents of increased antiquities smuggling triggered the passing of Law 215 
in October 1951. This law dramatically increased the severity of punishment for 
the illicit trade in antiquities and further stated that no antiquity could leave Egypt 
unless Egypt owned one or more objects that were similar to the one being exported, 
and then only with permits issued by relevant ministries and signed by accredited 
experts (Khater 1960). Shops registered with the government were permitted to sell 
antiquities that had been approved by the Antiquities Service. Several other minor 
laws were passed until the current (1983) antiquities law. It states (in translation) that 
“all monuments and artifacts uncovered in Egypt are the property of the Egyptian 
government. In addition, any object that has been duly registered as the property 
of Egypt, regardless of when it was discovered, should continue to be regarded as 


S. Ikram 

such unless a clear record exists that it was legally sold or given to another owner.” 
This law did away with the earlier system of “partage,” as well as the government- 
authorized antiquities dealers, giving the latter a year in which to get rid of their 
stock, but only within Egypt. Currently, a new antiquities law is being drafted that 
will include clauses that will enable the Egyptian government to pursue artifacts that 
clearly have been stolen from Egypt, particularly after the passing of the 1983 law. 

Despite national and international legislations, the high value placed on Egyptian 
artifacts in the market continues to encourage the wide-scale theft and destruction 
of heritage throughout Egypt today. Nowhere is safe, not even the storage facilities 
of the Antiquities Department. Sometimes even senior government (and military) 
officials, such as the former governor of Giza, have been implicated in large-scale 
international antiquities trafficking rings. Thus, the return of cultural heritage not 
only has a moral and nationalistic impetus, but also has a strong economic element. 

This is particularly apparent in the case of objects that have been illegally pur- 
chased (knowingly or not) on the art market after having been unlawfully spirited 
out of Egypt. The 1983 law is the basis of many of the lawsuits and requests for the 
return of stolen antiquities that Egypt has engaged in since the mid-1990s. In some 
cases, once alerted, the individuals, museums, or auction houses have graciously 
returned the objects to Egypt. 

In other cases, dealers such as Frederick Schultz and Jonathan Tokeley- 
Parry have been tried and convicted ( 
details.htm). A very recent example of an individual found to have traded illegally 
in antiquities is the former United States military man Edward George Johnson. 
Johnson purchased a group of objects that had been stolen from a storehouse belong- 
ing to the antiquities organization in Maadi. The theft was discovered when he put 
the objects up for sale — they had been excavated and published, and were therefore 

Many museums also provide assistance in the repatriation of stolen pieces. The 
Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Egyptian Department noticed pieces (ducks carved 
out of calcite) listed in the catalogs of two auction houses (Christie’s and Ruper 
Wace Ancient Art Limited) that their team had excavated in 1979. The museum 
alerted the Supreme Council of Antiquities and the auction house. The object was 
returned to Egypt without fuss and the theft investigated. 

The most notable American museum to assist in the return of Egypt’s cultural 
heritage is the Michael Carlos Museum in Atlanta. The museum not only has been 
extremely careful about purchasing artifacts, but has also been proactive in return- 
ing objects to Egypt regardless of when they were acquired. As an act of good will, 
the museum’s director, Bonnie Speed, and curator of the Egyptian department, Peter 
Lacovara, have returned fragments of the tomb of Seti I that the Carlos Museum had 
obtained quite legitimately. They believe that the pieces should be restored within 
the tomb in Egypt and will be more valuable there as they will be in context. After a 
painstaking reconstruction process, the pieces have now been successfully installed 
in the tomb. It is a pity that the pieces removed by Jean Francois Champollion 
from the same tomb that are now in the Louvre Museum have not been similarly 

6 Collecting and Repatriating Egypt’s Past 


The Carlos Museum also returned a mummy to Egypt. The mummy was pur- 
chased from an old collection in Niagara Falls that originally had been formed by 
authorized purchases made in the nineteenth century and was therefore quite legiti- 
mate. However, with careful study by the Carlos team as well as other Egyptologists, 
the mummy was tentatively identified as the body of King Ramesses I, the first ruler 
of the Nineteenth Dynasty, who ruled in about 1292 B.C. The mummy was dis- 
played at the Carlos, and then was carefully transported to Egypt, where it was 
received with great pomp and is now installed in the Luxor Museum. The return of 
the mummy and the attendant ceremonies, broadcast throughout the country, made 
a marked impression in Egypt and were a moment of great nationalistic feeling and 
pride in their past as people celebrated the return of a pharaoh. 

Not all museums are, however, as helpful as the Carlos. A New Kingdom funer- 
ary mask belonging to Ka-nefer-nefer held by the St. Louis Art Museum is the 
current subject of much wrangling. Director Brent Benjamin claims that the mask, 
bought in 1998, was a legitimate purchase and that all records were checked to estab- 
lish its legitimacy. However, the Egyptian government has documentary evidence 
that this mask left Egypt illegally in the twentieth century. Despite this evidence as 
well as reports written by reputable Egyptologists, the St. Louis Art Museum refuses 
to relinquish the mask. An end to the dispute is not yet in sight. 

In an effort to combat the theft of antiquities and to retrieve stolen ones, Dr. Zahi 
Hawass, Director General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, has estab- 
lished the new Department for the Repatriation of Stolen Antiquities, which makes 
lists of stolen objects and disseminates them to museums and law enforcement 
authorities throughout the world, such as Interpol and Art Loss. Currently the on- 
site storehouses are being inventoried so as to establish tighter controls over the 
antiquities that are not kept in museums. 

Iconic Artifacts 

All of the objects that have been mentioned thus far are valuable remains of 
Egypt’s past, though none, save for the putative Ramesses I, is an iconic object. 
Recently, Egypt has been repeatedly requesting the repatriation of certain iconic 
objects: the Rosetta Stone, which is in London, and the bust of Nefertiti, which 
is in Berlin, although requests for the former have not been taken very far in 
legal terms. 

The Rosetta Stone was discovered and taken by Napoleon Bonaparte’s soldiers 
as part of the collection that was being made for the French Republic by Bonaparte’s 
savants. After Britain defeated the French in the Mediterranean and in Egypt, they 
seized the stone and deposited it in the British Museum. However, prior to this, 
the French had made a series of copies of the stone that had been distributed to 
scholars throughout Europe so that they could try to decipher the language of the 
ancient Egyptians. The stone was significant in that the same text was written in 
three scripts: hieroglyphics on top, a cursive form of colloquial hieroglyphics or 
Demotic in the middle, and Greek at the bottom. Using the Greek and Egyptian texts 


S. Ikram 

in tandem, the Frenchman Jean Frangois Champollion managed to unlock the secret 
to translating hieroglyphics in 1822 (Adkins and Adkins 2001). This has proven to 
be the key to understanding ancient Egypt. 

Thus, the Rosetta Stone is an icon of Egyptology and, although not terribly visu- 
ally glamorous, it is a vital part of the history of Egypt and Egyptology. The stone 
remains in the British Museum, where it is much visited. Dr. Hawass had origi- 
nally requested that the stone be returned to Egypt. However, after due deliberation, 
he has withdrawn this request as the legal issues regarding ownership of the stone 
are fraught with complexity. He has, however, repeatedly requested that the Rosetta 
Stone be lent to Egypt for a short period so that Egyptians, the majority of whom 
cannot travel abroad both due to financial and political reasons, can view the stone. 
To date this request has been denied, although there is currently a dialogue with 
possible positive outcomes regarding this. Once the security and insurance issues 
are resolved, it might well occur in our lifetimes. 

The more controversial of Egypt’s requests is for repatriation of the bust of 
Nefertiti, which is now in Berlin’s Egyptian Museum (Fig. 6.1). For most people, 

6 Collecting and Repatriating Egypt’s Past 


this image of Nefertiti is, aside from pyramids and mummies, the symbol of Egypt. 
It is also an icon of female beauty, used to promote soaps, perfumes, and other 
beauty products not only in Egypt but also throughout the world. 

This painted limestone bust was discovered in 1912 by the German excavator 
Ludwig Borchardt and his team at the site of Tell el-Amarna, the city founded 
by King Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti. At this time, “partage” was practiced on 
excavations. In 1913 the representative for the Antiquities Service, the Frenchman 
Gustave Lefebvre, was assigned to divide the finds. Records no longer exist that 
clearly list the division of finds or any comments made regarding this particular 
division. Somehow (accounts vary), the iconic Nefertiti seems to have traveled to 
Berlin, while another unfinished piece, carved in quarzite, remained in Cairo as the 
“share” of the Egyptian government. 

The bust was initially displayed in the home of the man who financed the German 
expedition. Dr. James Simon. Most of the objects from the German expedition were 
put on display in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin in the winter of 1913-1914, 
save for Nefertiti (she made a brief appearance, probably for the benefit of Kaiser 
Wilhelm II, at the opening of the exhibition). German museum records suggest that 
Borchardt feared that the Egyptian Antiquities Service might demand her return; 
this concern on the part of Borchardt implies that Nefertiti might not have been 
extracted completely legally from Egypt [Note 4], 

Nefertiti was finally moved to the Berlin National Museum in 1920, and put on 
display around about 1923, complete with a lavishly illustrated publication writ- 
ten by Borchardt (1923) concerning the piece. Egypt was outraged. Negotiations to 
retrieve Nefertiti commenced in 1924 under Pierre Lacau, Director of the Egyptian 
Antiquities Service, and have continued. In 1929 Egypt even offered to exchange 
valuable pieces in its Cairo collection for the Nefertiti bust. However, the German 
government ultimately decided against this. Later in 1935, Hermann Goring, the 
Prussian prime minister, decided to return the bust, but was thwarted by Adolf Hitler. 
In fact, after World War II, ownership of the bust was debated between East and West 
Germany — it wound up in the West, and by the 1970s “Nofri” had become the cul- 
tural symbol for Berlin. After World War II, Egypt again sought the repatriation of 
the Nefertiti bust from the Allies, but to no avail. Subsequently, Egypt has repeatedly 
asked for the return of the bust, but with no success. Even some Germans have felt 
that the bust belongs in Cairo, and in 1984 the “Nefertiti Wants to Go Home” pam- 
phlet and movement was born under the auspices of Herbert Ganslmayr and Gerd 
von Paczensky, who suggested that the bust be displayed alternately in Cairo and 
Berlin as a solution to the dilemma. Finally, Egypt appealed formally to UNESCO 
in 2005 to resolve the conflict. It remains unclear to this day as to whether the 
Egyptian Antiquities Service or the Germans at the time had been at fault in remov- 
ing Nefertiti from Egypt, although new evidence concerning this issue has recently 
come to light (Krauss 2008, 2009). 

Most recently there have been heated exchanges between Dr. Dietrich Wildung, 
(now former) Director of the Berlin Museum, and Dr. Hawass. These have resulted 
in a stalemate. However, there might be some progress in the near future. Instead 
of requesting the unconditional return of Nefertiti, Dr. Hawass has asked for a 


S. Ikram 

short-term loan of the bust to coincide with the opening of new museums in Cairo 
and Minya, the largest city near the site of el-Amarna. 

Until now Wildung has asserted that the bust is too fragile to travel. But current 
events demonstrate that it is not too fragile for him to have allowed two Hungarian 
artists, Andras Galik and Balint Havas, to fit the bust onto a modern bronze body, 
albeit briefly. The artists brought to Berlin a bronze body that they had fashioned in 
Budapest. In Berlin, on May 26, 2003, under museum supervision, they arranged to 
have the ancient Nefertiti head placed briefly upon the bronze body. The event was 
taped, and the video and the headless bronze were put on view in adjacent rooms 
of the Hungarian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. The ancient head was returned to 
its glass case in Berlin and did not travel. But one must wonder why a cast of the 
bust would not have sufficed for this exercise. This publicity stunt generated inter- 
national opprobrium on Wildung and the artists, and assisted the cause of those who 
were working for the return of Nefertiti. Nefertiti once more dominated the news, 
not least in Egypt. Since then, Dr. Hawass has called for an international commit- 
tee to judge whether the bust can travel and whether conditions in Egypt will be 
acceptable for the well-being and safety of this unique piece. He writes in a letter to 
D. Wildung, 

Given the immeasurable delight and pride which this object could bring to Egyptians who 
have never had the opportunity to see it, it seems that a thorough and impartial evaluation by 
a scientific committee is called for to be sure that every possible scenario for its safe display 
in Egypt has been exhausted before our request for [its] loan is denied. We would never 
endanger any of our treasures by insisting that they travel against the advice of an impartial 
commission of experts. However, we do maintain that the evaluation of these objects should 
be carried out by a balanced and diverse international committee, including experts from 
Egypt and from other non-Western nations. (Zahi Hawass, 2007, personal communication) 

Certainly, the presence of Nefertiti in Egypt would give the Egyptians a sense of 
national pride and would also eliminate their confusion when they visit the museum 
in Cairo in search of the famous bust, only to be told that it resides in Berlin. 


Having Nefertiti (and other iconic objects) return to Egypt, even briefly, is not 
just important for Egyptian national pride, but also plays a part in Egypt’s strug- 
gle for economic survival. Tourism is among the most important sources of the 
nation’s income, perhaps ranking second only to remittances (Ikram 2006:88, 127, 
139). Ancient Egypt permeates the day-to-day life, on an economic level, of a large 
percentage of Egyptians, and as such, their patrimony is becoming of increasing 
interest to them. Having special displays of objects that have been returned to Egypt 
by foreign institutions, or seized by the antiquities police, has already increased 
museum attendance nationally. If such exhibitions were organized for iconic arti- 
facts, it would boost attendance both among local and foreign visitors. Indeed, the 
Museum of Stolen Things, which has been in operation since the 1950s in part of the 
Cairo Citadel, is a very popular venue among Egyptians. It not only draws attention 

6 Collecting and Repatriating Egypt’s Past 


to their heritage, but also highlights the work of the police in apprehending those 
who are seen to be robbing each individual Egyptian of his or her patrimony. 

Arguments Against Restitution: Poverty and Fundamentalism 

The arguments for the restitution of cultural property are many, and include both 
nationalism and economics. Arguments against this process sometimes include the 
perceived rights of the possessor, but more often poor museum conditions, reli- 
gious fundamentalism, potential warfare, and political unrest are cited as reasons 
for retaining artifacts that rightfully belong in their home countries. It should be 
noted that not all Western museums containing Egyptian antiquities are in perfect 
working order; many suffer from damp, flooding, and inadequate storage facilities. 
In Egypt, although the museum conditions are not as good as the wealthiest muse- 
ums in the West, they are gradually improving. New cases and climate controls are 
being established in older museums, and new museums are being built to modern 
standards, thereby invalidating this argument. 

The threat of fundamentalism to cultural heritage has been brought into sharp 
focus with the tragic and needless destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in 
Afghanistan, and is, sadly, a worry in many countries. In Egypt, a land rich in mon- 
umental sculpture, there was a great deal of furor in the wake of this demolition, and 
it was a topic of conversation amongst intellectuals and people on the street. One of 
the most prominent Muslim leaders, the Sheikh of al-Azhar, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, had 
asked the Taliban to reconsider their decision to tear down the Bamiyan Buddhas 
early in 2001, although he was severely criticized for his stand. The Grand Mufti of 
Egypt, Ali Gomaa, also spoke out against the destruction, but to no avail. 

The destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas sparked discussion concerning the 
propriety of displaying images (for Muslims) in Egypt. In April 2006, Egyptian 
newspapers brought a fatwa (religious legal opinion) issued by the Grand Mufti’s 
office to the public’s attention; this fatwa had probably been issued earlier (possibly 
in 2003), but had never been implemented. The fatwa stated that it was forbid- 
den for Muslims to use statuary representing living beings, particularly humans, as 
decorations within the house. The fatwa was strictly limited to statues of humans 
in the domestic context and did not mention works of art in museums or any 
Pharaonic or Coptic statuary. It did not even touch on the public statues that are 
abundantly scattered or erected throughout Egypt. This prompted further discus- 
sions in Egypt and raised fears that Pharaonic and Coptic monuments were at threat, 
putting antiquities staff and police more on their guard. Thankfully, none of the 
older artifacts was attacked. The only casualties resulting from this fatwa were 
three statues in the Garden Museum of sculptor Hassan Heshmat (active 1970s 
and 1980s). Subsequently, Gomaa went on record specifically saying that people 
should not destroy statues or monuments and that public art works, museum objects, 
and archaeological sites were in a separate category. These discussions helped sub- 
sequently clarify the fatwa that pertains exclusively to statues in the home. It is 
interesting to note that earlier muftis, such as Mohammed Abdou (early twentieth 


S. Ikram 

century) and Ahmed el-Tayeb, had stated that statues were not harcim or forbid- 
den, but unfortunately they never made any fatwa protecting them. On the whole, it 
seems as if Egypt’s official religious body would not collude with anyone attempting 
to destroy the country’s heritage, and would censure those who did. Furthermore, it 
is hard to imagine the government condoning a widespread destruction of statuary 
in a country with over 10 state-owned institutions that teach sculpture and painting, 
and that erect statuary in public spaces. 

If there is a threat to Egypt’s cultural heritage from anyone, it will be from a very 
small group of individuals. For the most part two- and three-dimensional images 
are an intrinsic part of Egyptian life, whether used in advertising, to commemorate 
religious events (such as going on Haj), or as part of their religion if they are Copts. 

A more real threat to cultural heritage is posed in the event of war, as is demon- 
strated by the tragic example of the Iraq Museum. However, warfare is not limited 
to certain areas. Looting, whether brought about by war or a local or regional crisis, 
is possible anywhere, and is thus an invalid reason for withholding cultural heritage. 

Heritage and National Identity 

For the Egyptians, their Pharaonic polytheistic past has been key to creating a sense 
of national identity (Fig. 6.2), partially as this past is non-denominational and unites 

Fig. 6.2 Saad Zaghloul’s mausoleum, constructed in 1931, epitomizes the deceased leader’s 
nationalist vision whereby Pharaonic Egypt unified the state. (Photo: Salima Ikram) 

6 Collecting and Repatriating Egypt’s Past 


all the people of Egypt. These symbols were first used in the nineteenth century, 
and then again during the early twentieth century when Egypt made its bid for free- 
dom from the British (Haikal 2003). This use of the Pharaonic past is reflected 
in Egyptian stamps and currency, newspaper mastheads, symbols for the national 
bank, and many national monuments including the pyramid-shaped Monument to 
the Unknown Soldier that also serves as President Anwar Sadat’s grave-marker, 
making him the first Egyptian ruler to be buried beneath a pyramid since the time of 
the Pharaohs (Reid 2003-2004; Haikal 2004). 

Now, once again, in the twenty-first century, Egypt uses its Pharaonic past to 
engender a sense of national history, pride, and unity that is secular in nature. The 
new courthouse on the corniche at Maadi in Cairo is built in a neo-Pharaonic style, 
linking the contemporary to the ancient and stressing the continuity of Egyptians, 
their culture, and their laws (Fig. 6.3). New books in Arabic on the ancient past 
are being published by independent scholars as well as under the auspices of the 
Supreme Council of Antiquities. The latter and the National Museum have spon- 
sored several series of short courses for children and adults at the Egyptian Museum 
that are well attended. These not only educate people about their past, but also pro- 
vide a sense of connection to their past and help articulate and emphasize a national 
identity. Twelve new regional museums are under construction; of these, four have 
been completed. These museums not only provide a venue for the creation, articu- 
lation, and emphasis of Egyptian nationalism on a regional level, but also serve to 
improve the local economies. 

The increase in TV broadcasts on Egyptian subjects is also contributing to the 
increased awareness of the modern Egyptians of their past and their connection to it, 
and reaches the nation’s population in far-flung areas. Events such as the (televised) 

Fig. 6.3 The National Courthouse on the corniche in Maadi alludes to the Pharaonic era and the 
past grandeur of Egypt. (Photo: Salima Ikram) 


S. Ikram 

Fig. 6.4 Moving the colossal granite statue from downtown Cairo into the desert reaffirmed the 
Egyptians’ faith in their technological prowess and reaffirmed their link with the Pharaonic past. 
(Photo: Salima Ikram) 

recent removal of the statue of Ramesses II from in front of Cairo’s main train station 
(Ramesses Station) to a more salubrious location at the entrance of the future Grand 
Museum had Cairenes of all ages out on the streets for most of the night (Fig. 6.4). 
One young boy, about 5 years old, who lived in the neighborhood, tearfully waved 
at the statue as it went by saying, in Arabic, “Ramesses, I will miss you!” The vision 
of the colossal statue of Ramesses II progressing through the streets of Cairo served 
as a reminder of Egypt’s Pharaonic past, and stressed the connection of the modern 
nation to its predecessors. 


Clearly Egypt’s ancient past is an intrinsic part of its national identity and econ- 
omy. It also provides a common ground that unifies Christians and Muslims. At 
a time when religious fundamentalism and sectarianism are a worldwide problem 
that threatens the present and future as well as the past, shouldn’t governments 
urge anything that promotes a secular unity and sense of nationhood regardless of 
creed? Shouldn’t the modern Egyptians have access to iconic images from their 
past, even briefly, to help them bolster their national identity and serve as a rallying 

6 Collecting and Repatriating Egypt’s Past 


Most of the discourse on contested heritage is focused on a few highly visi- 
ble pieces in Western collections. No one in Egypt is demanding the return of 
the obelisks that are now part of the embedded urban landscapes of Rome, Paris, 
London, Istanbul, and New York. Nor is anyone asking for the return of the vast bulk 
of collections outside Egypt. Repatriation requests are only being made for stolen 
pieces and a very few unique objects that are symbols of Egypt. The increasing 
recent trend of voluntarily returning demonstrably stolen artifacts is encouraging. It 
is hoped that, as standards continue to improve in Egyptian museums, the pressure 
will mount to repatriate even the most iconic representatives of Egyptian culture 
abroad, giving Nefertiti the chance to come home. 


1. My thanks to Dr. Zahi Hawass for providing access to the information concerning the repa- 
triation issues regarding stolen objects discussed in this chapter, and to Iman Abdulfattah and 
Shirin Ikram for obtaining the texts of some of the laws pertaining to antiquities. Needless to 
say, cases discussed in this paper are but a very few examples of antiquities theft. 1 am also 
grateful to Dr. N. Warner and Dr. J. Kamrin for discussions on the topic and their comments on 
this chapter. 

2. Interestingly, it appears that Champollion, who is best known for deciphering hieroglyphics, 
was an early instigator and catalyst for this Ordinance. In 1828 he led an expedition to Egypt 
to study the monuments in situ, and to obtain examples of Egyptian antiquities for the Louvre. 
After acquiring what he wanted, and at the behest of Egypt’s ruler, Muhammed Ali Pasha, 
he outlined the requirements for an antiquities service in Egypt and the rules that needed to 
be enforced to protect the monuments. Many of these can be seen in the Ordinance of 1835 
(Khater 1960:29-33). 

3. Unfortunately this museum was run more like the European private royal collections than a 
public museum. Gradually its contents were gifted away, and in 1855 the Khedive Said gifted 
the museum’s contents to the Archduke Maximilian of Austria in exchange for technological 

4. Information concerning the Nefertiti bust was gathered from papers kept in the Supreme 
Council of Antiquities office in Cairo, museum panels in the Berlin Museum, and the extremely 
useful website, consulted in April, May, and 
September 2008. 


Adkins, Lesley, and Roy Adkins. 

2001 . The keys of Egypt: The race to read the hieroglyphs. London: Harpers and Collin. 
Borchardt, Ludwig. 

1923. Portrats der Konigin Nofret-ete aus den Grahungen 1912/13 in Tell el- Amarna. Leipzig. 
Colla, Elliott. 

2007. Conflicted antiquities: Egyptology, Egyptomania, Egyptian modernity. Durham, NC: Duke 
University Press. 

Greener, Leslie. 

1966. The discovery of Egypt. New York, NY: Dorset Press. 

Haikal, Fayza. 

2003. Egypt’s past regenerated by its own people. In Consuming ancient Egypt, ed. Sally 
MacDonald and Michael Rice, 123-38. London: UCL Press. 


S. Ikram 

2004. A definition of identity: Pharaonic architecture in contemporary Egypt. Bulletin of the 
American Research Center in Egypt 185: 1-14. 

Ikram, Khalid. 

2006. The Egyptian economy, 1952-2000. London: Routledge. 

Khater, Antoine. 

1960. Le regime juridique des fouilles et des antiquites en Egypte. Cairo: Institut Fran9ais 
d’Archeologie Orientale. 

Krauss, Rolf. 

2008. Why Nefertiti went to Berlin. Kmt: A Modern Journal of Egyptology 19(3): 44-53. 

2009. Nefertiti’s final secret. Kmt: A Modern Journal of Egyptology 20(2): 18-28. 

Maspero, Gaston. 

1914. Guide du Musee du Caire. Cairo: Institut FranQais d’Archeologie Orientale. 

Osman, Dalia. 

1999. Occupiers' title to cultural property: Nineteenth-century removal of Egyptian artifacts. 
Journal Transnational Law 969: 37 column. 

Reid, Donald M. 

2002. Whose pharaohs? Archaeology, museums, and Egyptian national identity from Napoleon to 
World War I. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 

2003-2004. Egyptian views of the pharaohs from Muhammad Ali to Nasser. Bulletin of the 
American Research Center in Egypt 184: 1-10. 

Vercoutter, Jean. 

1992. The search for ancient Egypt. New York, NY: Harry Abrams. 

Chapter 7 

National Identity Interrupted: The Mutilation 
of the Parthenon Marbles and the Greek 
Claim for Repatriation 

Vasiliki Kynourgiopoulou 


History comprises many layers of accumulated collective memory, which act as a 
conscious or unconscious influence on the decisions of individuals as well as on 
the collective actions of the great social forces of history. Just how individual and 
social decision-making interact is a problem that is still under debate. We could how- 
ever suggest that basic historic experiences clearly affect the mentality of groups. 
Especially in the case where culturally different nations claim common inheritance, 
such experiences give rise to conflicting attitudes or lead to lasting antagonisms. 
Historical experiences may vividly represent national consciousness and often act 
as testimonies of cultural and national identities based on cultural patrimony, as 
in the case of Greece. My approach examines the historical consciousness of the 
Greeks and the creation of cultural and national identity based on cultural heritage. 

Modern discourse on repatriation focuses mainly on the ownership of artifacts 
and the prerogatives of academic research and stewardship, excluding the very heart 
of the matter which is who actually has the right to curate, preserve, display, and 
interpret cultural heritage. It is true that with the age of globalization, national dif- 
ferences are to be seen as regional or even local as there is great advocacy in favor 
of “a common heritage,” “one global identity,” and “one cultural past.” National 
heritage is regarded as the display of a particular historical narrative which, because 
of its affiliation with history, is no longer considered inheritance of its people. Does 
archaeology therefore reinforce the sense of nostalgia of the past but at the same 
time regard history as separate from its people? It is within the contradictory con- 
text of repatriation and globalization that I examine the role of archaeology and 
consider Greece’s claim for the repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles and the need 
for reconstruction of historical monuments not only for nationalistic purposes but 
for existential reasons. 

V. Kynourgiopoulou (El) 

Italy Asst. Academic Dean, Cultural Experiences Abroad, University of New Haven, Rome, Italy 

H. Silverman (ed.), Contested Cultural Heritage, 

DOI 10.1007/978-l-4419-7305-4_7, © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 201 1 



V. Kynourgiopoulou 

Historical Consciousness and National Identity 

It is true that historical consciousness — or the historical unconscious — is deter- 
mined by events of the past. Historical consciousness deals with past events that 
have been accepted and therefore have become part of a personal or collective iden- 
tity. Historical knowledge or knowledge of the past that has been preserved through 
time is usually refined by social methods and political regimes and thus shapes his- 
torical consciousness in another way. Modern scientific thought has revealed the 
sphere of the unconscious and has taught us to take into account what we call col- 
lective memory. But the rationalism suggested by the scientific method also urges 
us to extract historical events from their anonymity and complexity, to see them as 
products of comprehensible actions and causal connections, to dispel legends and 
myths. History may be said to increase our knowledge of the past, but in doing so 
it reduces the unknown power of the past. Respectively in collective identities the 
awareness of a shared past is indispensable, what Renan (1881) famously called 
“ avoir fait de grandes choses ensemble, et vouloir en faire encore ” (“having done 
great things together and wishing to do more”). Historical awareness is at the very 
root of collective identity as this collective knowledge denotes unity and relation. 
For a community or nation, common recollections of the past and cultural elements 
which they all recognize and identify with create the idea of a relation with each 
other. The notion of identity and its dependence through cultural heritage invokes a 
categorical fixture, unchangeable and permanent through time. 

Following the creation of the Modern Greek state, Gaston Deschamp (1892) 
noted the significance of classical heritage for the Modern Greeks, “the Greek wants 
to adapt to the European customs while simultaneously [keeping] the originality 
peculiar to his race. His pride urges him to imitate the Western manners and modes. 
At the same time however, he preserves an old fund of tenderness for the local tra- 
ditions, from which he would part with difficulty. Among cultivated Greeks this sort 
of duality is striking.” 

A Greek historian of the nineteenth century summarizes the Modern Greek idea 
of nationhood in his call “not to run to Europe thirsting for a Master. . . nor can 
one ignore the country’s history and cultural foundations” (Giannopoulos 1965:56). 
Such a view of modern national identity was not uncontested in Europe, however. 
In the nineteenth century the gap between the European perception of Greekness 
and Greek national identity and the Greek perception of Greekness became quite 
evident. Indicative of this gap is Leo von Klenze’s address to King Otto during 
his visit to the Acropolis: “[You have] stepped today, after so many centuries of 
barbarism, for the first time on this celebrated Acropolis, proceeding on the road 
of civilisation and glory, on the road passed by the likes of Themistocles, Aristidis, 
Kimon, and Pericles, and this is and should be in the eyes of your people the symbol 
of a glorious reign . . . All the remains of barbarity will be removed, here as in all 
of Greece, and the remains of the glorious past will be brought in new light, as the 
solid foundation of a glorious present and future” (Meliarakes 1884). 

For the Modern Greeks the marbles of the Parthenon, located atop the Acropolis, 
constitute not only the foundation of nationhood but also have become the symbols 

7 National Identity Interrupted 


of Greece’s hybrid architectural and cultural identity. The Parthenon Marbles evoke 
the idea of diachronic identity, the sense of permanence and continuity in time. 
Hacked off the Parthenon by Lord Elgin 200 years ago and taken to Britain, Greece 
wants its marbles back. They constitute one of the most famous cases of return and 

The “Elgin” Marbles? 

In 1799 Thomas Bruce, the seventh Earl of Elgin, was appointed the British 
Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire and was stationed in Athens. At this time he 
was planning to decorate his country home in Scotland and therefore originally 
planned to ask for permission to produce drawings and make casts of the Parthenon 
sculptures in order to make copies back home. Studying them closely, however, he 
became much more interested in the original pieces than the casts and thus moved 
toward a particular agreement with the Turkish authorities. His second request was 
specifically to “excavate” and remove material from the monument. As the Greek 
people were under Turkish occupation, Elgin offered the irrevocable assistance of 
Britain in the French-Turkish war and pledged allegiance to the Ottoman Empire. 
Hence, he managed to acquire a much questioned permit or firman, and through 
bribery he was able to remove large parts of the Parthenon. 

From 1801 to 1804, Elgin brought back to London a very large proportion of 
ancient Greek sculptures from the Parthenon. From 1803 to 1816 the marbles were 
in his possession. In 1816, he sold the majority of the marbles to the British govern- 
ment in order to pay off debts (Hitchens 1997). The Select Committee of the House 
of Commons debated the issue and considered the value and importance of their 
acquisition as public property. And so they entered the British Museum. 

By the term “Elgin marbles”, therefore, specific reference is made to the group 
of sculptures that were removed by Lord Elgin. To this date, the British Museum 
holds almost half of the Parthenon frieze, one whole caryatid, metopes, parts of 
columns from the Parthenon, pedimental figures, and a number of sculptures from 
the monuments on the Acropolis. 

The Parthenon Marbles 

These sculptures have acquired different meanings over the centuries — for instance, 
from the archaeological and artistic symbols of Athenian superiority during 
Pericles’ time to folk stories of spirits living in the sculptures as human beings pet- 
rified by magicians (Andronikos 1985). For most of the nineteenth century, ancient 
Greek archaeology was perceived as the most representational artistic production 
of European culture and achievement whereas for the local Greek population it 
was considered part of the Athenian landscape with supernatural connotations. 
Andronikos (1985) refers to the vivid tales of locals narrating the removal of the 


V. Kynourgiopoulou 

Parthenon Marbles by Lord Elgin’s assistants and the despair of the caryatids over 
the savage abduction of their sister (Gennadios 1930; Kakridis 1978). 

The Parthenon Marbles represented the great European knowledge of ancient art 
and architecture and were the symbols of European roots. The whole of the nine- 
teenth century — the age of neoclassicism — saw the revival of ancient Greek and 
Roman models. It was therefore imperative for Western institutions, in the making, 
to provide evidence of curatorial connoisseurship and conservation praxis. At the 
same time the creation of Modern Greece led to the need for appropriate conserva- 
tion methods for the protection of antiquities both classical and Byzantine, as they 
were considered parts of the Greek national identity. 

Britain, one of the greatest topographies of neoclassical art and architecture, saw 
the opportunity for exhibiting authentic images of ancient Greece as a nostalgic 
move toward classical revival. The marbles of the Parthenon became the canons of 
artistic supremacy away from the visual revulsion of Modern Athens in the making. 
The new class of educated Europeans was now able to study ancient Greek art and 
architecture in the clean and safe environment of the British Museum, establishing 
therefore their imagined ancestral heritage and legitimizing their intellectual superi- 
ority (Bastea2000; Hamilakis and Yalouri 1996; Herzfeld 1982; Kitromilides 1989; 
Skopetea 1988). Indeed, Hitchens (1997:17) indicates that the British Museum is 
obliged by law to refer to the specific group of sculptures acquired by Lord Elgin as 
“Elgin Marbles.” 

The Greek Claim for Restitution 

Notwithstanding their location in London, Modern Greeks have considered the 
sculptures as part of their national heritage and living symbols of their hybrid iden- 
tity. They are the symbols of past achievements and the markers of their cultural 
development. The Parthenon sculptures in the British Museum became the “missing 
link” of a much needed cultural past. Hamilakis writes, 

The frequent condemnation of Lord Elgin’s activities in his own country by prominent 
personalities helped to raise the issue in the newly founded Hellenic state. The earlier folk 
tales (..) were now reshaped and re-told by folklorists in such a way as to fit in the national 
narrative; rather than being seen as evidence for “superstition” (as foreign travellers saw 
them) or as testaments of a cosmological construction of “otherness,” they were presented 
as evidence for the living consciousness of the population as descendants of Ancient Greeks 
and as custodians of their ancestral heritage. (1999:9) 

Perhaps their restitution would mark the cultural achievement of Modern Greeks. 
Ever since their installation at the British Museum the marbles have become 
the focus of diplomatic negotiations between the two countries, the focus of con- 
troversy over repatriation issues. In 1984, Melina Merkouri, the then Minister of 
Culture, demanded their restitution and officially started the debate of legal own- 
ership. In September 1984, Greece filed a restitution request with UNESCO’s 
Intergovernmental Committee. During several sessions and, in particular, in 1989, 
1991, 1994, and 1996, the Committee adopted recommendations calling for “an 

7 National Identity Interrupted 


amicable settlement of the dispute” with reiterations made in 1999, in order to 
encourage new bilateral negotiations between Greece and the UK. 

The Greek thesis of repatriation rests on the indefinable relationship between 
object and subject, as the Parthenon Marbles are considered inalienable treasures 
belonging to the Greek people. They are regarded as elements that constitute 
Greek nationhood, and thus their function and interpretation can only be properly 
understood in their original context. 

The argument for restitution of the Parthenon Marbles should also be examined 
in terms of Greek architectural identity. Since the creation of the Modern Greek 
state, specific emphasis has been placed on architecture as the confirmation of 
national identity. Greek architectural identity re-creates and legitimizes those prin- 
ciples and values that derived from the classical architectural heritage: ideology 
and nationhood. More specifically, in the nineteenth century when Europe empha- 
sized the re-creation of the classical Greek past in Modem Greece and the abolition 
of anything Ottoman, neoclassical architecture in Athens provided a visual image 
of the new nation — a visual image in terms of its physical criteria, motifs, and 
aesthetic values, combined with social values of unity, permanence, and progress. 
Architecture can be properly understood in its totality. The full purpose and design 
of a building, its decorative parts, and its aesthetic and symbolic values can be prop- 
erly understood within their topographical context in full motion of images and 
symbols; “monumental architecture addresses the collective aspect of life, meaning 
the life of society as a whole, and is usually created within the historic, social, eco- 
nomic, and political framework of the time. Its appeal, however, goes beyond the 
historical limits of the time in which it was created” (Boibondas et al. 1977). As 
such the Parthenon and its ideology, philosophy, and symbolism can be properly 
interpreted once the majority of the pieces are together. Architecture is the thread 
between theory and practice, and it is also in this context that the repatriation of the 
Parthenon Marbles should be examined. 

The British Museum has refused the restitution or return lato sensu even within 
the framework of exchange (see Jenkins 2007; St. Clair 1998). In fact, in recent years 
there have been a series of offensive remarks in the British press, hinting to a new 
era of colonialism, making gloomy predictions about the new Acropolis Museum 
and Greece’s efforts to care for their monuments. The Parthenon Marbles have 
become British national heritage and the British elite are in control of that legacy: 
“Britain conjoins family and nation, personifying the national heritage, stamping 
public treasures with a private imprimatur” (Lowenthal 2004:67). “Phrases such as 
The Rokeby Venus,’ ‘The Portland Vase,’ The Elgin Marbles’ [held] “more than 
passing proprietary meaning. They summarized a proper custody and appeared to 
state a desirable case” (Hazzard 1981; cited in Lowenthal 2004:67). 

Colonial Hubris 

With the advent of globalization, the idea of cultural difference has given way to 
a “constructed cultural whole” where different cultural patrimonies are seen as one 


V. Kynourgiopoulou 

and cultural heritage is “administered” by organizations with financial power. The 
greater issue that derives from the rhetoric of the “cultural stock market” is that 
in promoting equality through globalization we are in fact reviving colonial ideas. 
As great colonial museums, such as the British Museum, attempt to prevent the 
abolition of museum dominance over “national patrimony,” one sees these institu- 
tions becoming defensive over the issue of archaeological freedom and research. 
As more and more States make claims for the repatriation of their national her- 
itage, one hears the claim — including among some archaeologists — that “legitimate 
archaeology” (which is the dictum of many museums) is being “killed off’ in an 
effort to limit academic freedom, deny cross-cultural respect, and destroy the notion 
of “global heritage.” But the real issue is the display of cross-cultural respect and 
co-operation versus colonialism, a term I use here to represent enforcement of doc- 
trines that institute profitable partnerships and exclude members of the community 
by claim of arbitrary ownership. 

The Greeks’ right for the repatriation of Parthenon Marbles should be re- 
examined with the understanding that the marbles need to be interpreted as sacred 
and essential symbols of the Modern Greek hybrid identity. Modern Greek hybrid 
identity is based on memory, symbols, and traditions with ties that bring the past 
into the present or bridge the past and the present (see Clogg 1979; Herzfield 1982, 
1987). Tradition, whether “invented” (Hobsbawm 1983) or not, has a ritual or sym- 
bolic function within society. Invented traditions are usually created in response to 
a mass need, and are politically driven. Usually, there are certain pre-conditions for 
the creation of traditions. Such pre-conditions involve the way people are ready for 
tradition — especially after wars or radical social changes — in order to gain some 
form of cultural identity. Traditions suggest social/political stability within a nation 
and often act as types of public symbols. 

The British Museum’s case — bolstered by the idea of international patrimony — 
in fact projects ideas that reinforce the idea of colonial ownership. The most striking 
of all arguments was put forward in 1985, when the then director of the British 
Museum, David Wilson, defended the Museum against the Greek claim for repatri- 
ation of the Parthenon Marbles, arguing that a “Third World country” like Greece is 
unable to sustain the upkeep of the marbles (a ridiculous claim since the Parthenon 
Marbles have been subjected to unsuccessful and injurious conservation techniques 
while in the British Museum) and that Greeks are merely an “ex-colonial” people 
who strive to establish their national identity. He stated. 

As a result of European wars and pillage, the European heritage has been distributed more 
than once. There is little that one would wish to be returned to their original owners (who 
are they in any case?) or redistributed among the European treasuries and museums. But this 
self-satisfied attitude causes pain when one turns to the real feeling of ex-colonial people 
who feel a need to establish their national identity. Much of the material from Third World 
countries was not collected as a result of war or pillage. Much came as a result of gifts and 
barter and of genuine spirit of scientific enquiry by Europeans eager to know more about the 
people of the period; the material now housed in museums all over the world was acquired 
legally and with the full — even eager — permission of their owners. This is true of the Elgin 
Marbles as of spears from Fiji. It is difficult to adjust modern terms to the morality of the 

7 National Identity Interrupted 


The Third World and other countries bent on return and restitution should, however, 
realize that they are themselves in danger of being considered vandals if they persist in 
their course with regard to the great international collections. The universal museums have 
looked after their collections for many years — they are great monuments to man's mind, its 
possibilities, its weaknesses, its similar or different reactions. (Wilson 1985:105-106) 

Interpreting Wilson’s arguments, we can identify a strong colonial attitude of 
superiority that leads to dangerous presuppositions of cultural heritage and iden- 
tity. First, Wilson’s attempt to differentiate between European heritage and colonial 
heritage serves the need of many Western European institutions to claim the roots 
of European civilization and science. As Bilsel (2000:12) puts it, “to differentiate 
between the European heritage and the ex-colonial people’s lack of heritage serves 
Wilson’s political agenda of acknowledging the rootedness of the European culture, 
on one hand, while underlying the constructedness of the other’s identity on the 
other.” Wilson not only attempts to construct a common European identity, rooted 
in the classical past, but also constructs his argument on the principle of the differ- 
entiation between “us” and “the other.” He infers, moreover, that once the marbles 
became part of the British past and therefore British identity, they were acknowl- 
edged as European heritage. He ignores the topography of the marbles by taking 
them out of their historical and geographical context which places them in Greece. 
By calling Greece and its people “a colony,” he emphasizes the sense of colonial 
superiority. But Greece was never a British colony, nor were the marbles given will- 
ingly with the full permission of the local (Greek) people. The marbles were taken 
by Lord Elgin without the consent of the Greek people as Greece at the time was part 
of the Ottoman Empire. We might therefore accept that the Turkish administration in 
Athens was at the time the rightful owner of the marbles. If so, does this imply that 
every colonial power has the right of ownership over every material culture of the 
country it colonizes? Even the idea of “a gift” implies ownership and in the Greek 
case it is erroneous to talk about the marbles being given as a gift since they were 
never officially the possession of the Turkish administration in Athens. Instead, what 
should be emphasized is the general European attitude of the nineteenth century. 

Nineteenth-century Athens, in particular, presented the “great experiment” for 
the European powers of the time as they were aspiring to reproduce the mighty 
ancient Greek civilization by eradicating anything Byzantine (Bastea 2000; Mpiris 
1996; Philippides 1984). 

The Greeks of the time were considered unworthy of their classical heritage. 
Christine Boyer notes with irony, “Thus an imaginary gap seems to separate the 
people of Europe from those of Greece and although the latter might be the liv- 
ing ancestors of Europe upholding the role of Ur-Europa, they were simultaneously 
blamed for being immature and backward children held down by their ancient past. 
This places nineteenth century Greece in an impossible position; it was to be the 
standard of civilization in the abstract sense, but judged in reality to be a humiliated 
Oriental vassal clearly inferior to — and in the end dependent on — the more mod- 
ern Europe. This bind, moreover, served Eurocentric purposes and legitimized the 
plundering of Greece’s past” (1994:158). 


V. Kynourgiopoulou 

It was therefore in the hands of Europeans to identify the roots of the Western 
world by excavating in the topos of the “other.” The excavated material became 
an important source of information both in terms of aesthetic and archaeological 
value. Historians along with architects and politicians projected the parts of history 
that they considered valuable. This created an unpredictable and capricious mem- 
ory based on parts of history that in many cases were false or altered. For example, 
Greece’s heritage and history in Asia Minor was butchered in order to claim its 
ancient heritage. At the time when the whole of Europe was in a state of mind 
dedicated to finding its “true” ancestors and justifying its cultural superiority over 
indigenous cultures, Greece was argued to be the land of ancient superiority, the 
amalgam of Western civilization. Its people, therefore, could not have any connec- 
tions with their Ottoman past or local traditions: “what is true may be forgotten. 
But it is the customary fate of new truths to begin as heresies and to end as supersti- 
tions” (Lorenz 1978:5 quoting Huxley 1853). In the nineteenth century in particular, 
Europe projected historical thought as a compensating function, making up for the 
lack of history by exaggerating a consciousness of it. “Only in contemplating the 
past can we find a scale by which we can measure the speed and force of the move- 
ment in which we are leaving ourselves” (Troeltsch 1922:8). The particular idea of 
history as a device for measuring time and motion in the present was a common 

Nations, Stakeholders, and Memory 

The notion of cultural patrimony can be understood only in terms of cultural mem- 
ory. It is memory and cultural production that make a nation. Nationhood, by 
definition, is achieved through the homogenous interpretation and placement of 
cultural objects in a group’s collective identity. Although paradoxically UNESCO 
defines cultural patrimony as both particular and universal, the identity of a nation 
is signified based on its cultural patrimony — both tangible and intangible. The dis- 
placement of the visual image of a cultural object disrupts the collective memory of 
identity, as in the case of the Parthenon Marbles. Continuing this line of argument, 
the destruction of the cultural record through either pillaging or decay breaks the 
cultural lineage between the past and the present. The 2002 UNESCO Universal 
Declaration on Cultural Diversity emphasizes this point: “particular attention must 
be paid to . . . the specificity of cultural goods and services which, as vectors of 
identity, values and meaning, must not be treated as mere commodities or consumer 
goods.” The persistence and insistence of the British Museum to keep the marbles 
on display treats them as cultural objects of commodification rather than as cultural 
testimonies of the past and the present of national identity. 

In a similar vein, for centuries museums around the world have gathered material 
culture from various cultures and excavated, accessioned, catalogued, interpreted, 
and displayed these artifacts. Yet, until recently, these same museums have made 

7 National Identity Interrupted 


very few attempts, if any, to include native or source peoples in that process. The 
dismissive treatment of national descent has fueled the assertion of cultural hege- 
mony over artifacts. Just as the Greeks seek the return of the Parthenon’s marbles, 
Africans petition for the return of the Benin bronzes, Hungarians seek the return of 
the Crown of St. Stephen, and Egypt pushes for the return of the Rosetta Stone and 
bust of Nefertiti. 

The idea of “reverse archaeology” might lead in more profitable directions when 
considering repatriation. Reverse archaeology seeks the return and reinstitution of 
artifacts to their original sites just as “reverse anthropology” should collect and use 
ethnographic data in order to share it with native peoples and help future generations 
to understand and value their native language and customs. Museums should work 
with natives and locals in a spirit of mutual co-operation and education. Repatriation 
is an open dialogue, the acceptance of rights and long-standing traditions for the 
formation of identities. It should not be considered as a doctrine, an imposed factual 
discipline of superiority, or an institutional colonization. 

The act of institutional colonization on the part of the British Museum inherently 
characterizes Greeks as inferior and incapable to safeguard cultural heritage. This 
claim is false. Greece is now actively committed to limit antiquity theft. An exam- 
ple is the recent return (in February 2008) of two life-size headless marble statues 
of Artemis and Apollo from the archaeological area of Butrint, Albania, which were 
found in the possession of looters in Athens. At the hand-over ceremony, Michalis 
Liapis, ex-Greek Minister of Culture, emphasized that Greece’s co-operation with 
Albania demonstrated Greece’s commitment against art trafficking and that Greece 
has reinforced its campaign for the return of ancient artifacts from museums and 
private collections around the world that were illegally acquired. The Butrint return 
followed the very successful return of five classical pieces in July 2003 by Prof. 
Zachos, ephor for the province of loannina ( Athens News Agency 2008). Greece, 
along with Italy, Portugal, and Spain, has ratified the 1970 UNESCO Convention 
for the Protection of Antiquities and the Illicit Trafficking of Antiquities, as it is a 
country with rich archaeological heritage and suffers from illegal export. The repa- 
triation of cultural heritage should be understood as an issue of cultural continuity 
and survival, not a theme of financial dispute. 

The Parthenon has been and will continue to be a site of memory. The 
Greeks as well as the universal community sees not only the Parthenon as the 
architectural and artistic epitome of the classical Greek past but also the con- 
tinuation and “living use” of the Parthenon as a monument in a post-modern 
context within the urban fabric of modern Greece. The Parthenon in the context 
of modern Greece is a historical monument that does not so much emphasize 
the nationalistic identity and self-perception of the Greeks but rather reinforces 
their existential pride and cultural identity. Monuments in their original setting 
represent “institutes of memory” where the natives and the international commu- 
nity can learn, appreciate, and pass on traditions and cultural idioms to future 


V. Kynourgiopoulou 

The New Acropolis Museum 

The New Acropolis Museum has been designed by Bernard Tschumi and Michael 
Fotiadis (Fig. 7.1). The symbolism of the creation of the New Acropolis Museum 
is evident in both the exterior fay ad e (Fig. 7.2) and the interior design. Tschumi’s 
(2009a) design concepts of light, movement, and tectonics reveal the contempo- 
rary architectural praxis with the conceptual clarity of ancient Greek buildings. Set 
a few meters across from the original site of the Parthenon, the upper galleries of 
the new museum offer the direct interplay between old and new, as the Acropolis 
is mirrored on the main fay ad e of the new museum (Fig. 7.3). It represents a new 
architectural identity based on the reflective interplay between exterior and interior. 
Although the interior signifies the historicity based on the archaeological record 
of ancient Greece, the exterior carries the ancient narrative to contemporary times 
and re-introduces Greece to a post-modern dialogue of the New Modem Greek 
identity (Fig. 7.4). The new museum addresses the relationship between cultural 
identity constructions (culture and heritage) and the significance of local, municipal, 
regional, and national agencies, as manifested in political and cultural institutions, 
such as museums. 

The built environment, in particular, can be decoded as a way in which the dif- 
ferent component parts of spatial identity, while still recognizable in their particular 
iconographies and materials, can be synthesized into a single, “hybrid” image. The 
museum becomes the hybrid space where aesthetics, architecture, and sculpture 

Fig. 7.1 The New Acropolis Museum. The actual shape of the museum mimics the shape and 
location of the Parthenon on the Acropolis Hill. (Photo: Vasiliki Kynourgiopoulou) 

7 National Identity Interrupted 


Fig. 7.2 The New Acropolis Museum entrance. (Photo: Vasiliki Kynourgiopoulou) 

blend in a post-modern context and create a dynamic narrative of the process of dis- 
covery. This discovery is based not only on a new architectural praxis that seeks to 
engage with the ancient Greek landscape but also on a new dynamic Greek identity 
that represents Greece as capable of ensuring the protection of its ancient monu- 
ments in the museum context. Greece opens the dialogue for a post-modern role of 
museums, not as static institutions of collecting, but as dynamic places of multiple 

The Parthenon Gallery of the museum opens out into a vast space, where the 
siting of the marbles visually coincides with their original siting on the Acropolis. 
The open space areas and glass facades in the museum further engage the viewer 
in a journey through history from the open-air archaeological excavations outside 
the museum to the most sensitive and protected items in it. The transparent sections 
throughout the museum allow the visitor to be in constant contact with archaeology, 
not in a static setting but surrounded by modem and contemporary buildings. As 
Tschumi explains. 

The top is the rectangular Parthenon Gallery around an outdoor court. The characteristics of 
its glass enclosure provide ideal light for sculpture, in direct view to and front the reference 
point of the Acropolis. The Parthenon marbles will be visible for the Acropolis above. The 
enclosure is designed so as to protect the sculptures and visitors against excess heat and 
light. The orientation of the marbles, which will be exactly as at the Parthenon, and their 


V. Kynourgiopoulou 

Fig. 7.3 The reflection of the Parthenon on the main gallery of the Parthenon sculptures in the 
New Acropolis Museum. (Photo: Vasiliki Kynourgiopoulou) 

siting will provide an appropriate context for understanding the accomplishments of the 
Parthenon complex itself. (2009b) 

The complexity of the design treats the sculptures in an almost anthropomorphic 
sense, as they are considered valuable for understanding the accomplishments of the 
Parthenon complex itself. 


Part of the polarization between Greeks and the British Museum stems from a lack 
of co-operation. Is the case of the Parthenon Marbles one of stewardship or owner- 
ship? Where do we draw the line between a systematic approach for the protection 
of antiquities and self-appointed decision-making that excludes the “other”? In the 
words of Paul Theroux, “Greece itself is a cut-price theme park of broken mar- 
ble, where the visitor is harangued in a high-minded way about Ancient Greek 
culture, while some swarthy little person picks your pocket” (Theroux 1995:324- 
325). Continuous co-operation between British and Greek curatorship should be 
promoted, rather than claims of protective ownership. 

Greece’s claim for repatriation is based on the symbolic value and understand- 
ing of the Parthenon, which is now mutilated without the marbles. The British 

7 National Identity Interrupted 


Fig. 7.4 The architecture of 
the New Acropolis Museum 
blends with neoclassical 
buildings and ancient Greek 
ones. (Photo: Vasiliki 

Museum’s dismissal of the claim for repatriation touches upon the dismissal of the 
opinion of the British public who increasingly seem in favor of the return of the 
Parthenon Marbles. In 1996 the British TV Channel 4 undertook an opinion poll on 
this matter. It demonstrated over 92% in favor of the return. Additional opinion polls 
carried out by Market & Opinion Research International, Ltd (MORI) in 1998 and 
2002 also showed an increase of those in favor of the return of the marbles to Greece. 

The New Acropolis Museum represents the new exhibition praxis and most 
importantly interprets national patrimony within the timeless context of architectural 
and cultural exchange. Within the contemporary discourse of repatriation. Modern 
Greek cultural heritage should be considered part of the common European cul- 
tural heritage without excluding its purpose and significance on a national Greek 
level. The Parthenon Marbles are part of the Greek collective identity and not mere 
archaeological objects of European scientific interest. Their role in the collective 
memory and identity of the Greeks should be acknowledged. The discourse on repa- 
triation therefore is not only one of the return of cultural objects to their countries 
of origin but one of the re-examination of institutional colonial and imperialistic 
image-making in the twenty-first century. 

So where does an artifact rightfully belong? Is there a moral imperative for cul- 
tural patrimony to be returned to their countries of origin despite the legality or 


V. Kynourgiopoulou 

illegality of acquisition? Or should artifacts that have been legally removed from 
their countries of origin be viewed as cultural ambassadors that promote under- 
standing between people? Recent archaeological study (Pyburn 1998) has shown 
that the difference between archaeologists and living people is more economic than 
cultural. Western archaeology operates on the basis of subjective methods of sci- 
entific research. An example is archaeology’s comparison of the West and the East 
or “Orient” in terms of cultural production and upkeep. Western cultural institu- 
tions are self-regarded as the true keepers of knowledge and scientific thought. 
Archaeology is complied in regarding Modern Greece as the product of Europe, 
delinking it from the ancient past and thereby masking nationalistic sentiments 
through colonial superiority. From that perspective, any claims of a Greek hybrid 
dynamic identity bridging the past and the present are considered disproportionate. 

True collaboration requires that we not only listen carefully to what stakeholders 
tell us but also understand that no museum is in a position to act as a “scien- 
tific academy” that decides the interpretation, display, and right of ownership of 
the marbles while it considers the natives as “ignorant locals.” Globalization can 
indeed fuel the politics of nationalism; it also, however, promotes cultural respect 
and understanding. 


Andronikos, M. 

1985. Stin Xenitia. Efhmerida To Vima, 3 March. 

Athens News Agency. 

2008. Dated 8 Feb 2008. Accessed 10 March 2008. 

Bastea, Eleni. 

2000. The creation of modern Athens. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. 

Bilsel, S. M. Can. 

2000. Zeus in exile: Archaeological restitution as politics of memory. Centre for Arts and Cultural 
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Boibondas, A., B. Kizilos, R. Kloutsiniotis, and S. Kontaratos. 

1977. City and regional planning in Greece. A historical survey. Architecture in Greece 11: 128— 

Boyer, Christine. 

1994. The city of collective memory: Its historical imagery and architectural entertainments. 
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Clogg, Richard. 

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Deschamps, Gaston. 

1892. La Grece d' aujourd’hui. Paris. 

Gennadios, I. 

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Epidromeis 1440-1837. Athens: Archaeological Society of Athens. 

Giannopoulos, Pericles. 

1902. H Sugxronos Zographiki (Modern painting) Acropolis newspaper , Dec. 

Hamilakis, Yannis. 

1999. The cultural biography of objects. World Archaeology 31(2): 303-320. 

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Hamilakis, Yannis, and Eleana Yalouri. 

1996. Antiquities as symbolic capital in modern Greek society. Antiquity 70: 1 17-129. 

Hazzard, Shirley. 

1981. The transit of Venus . London. 

Herzfeld, Michael. 

1982. Ours once more; Folklore, ideology and the making of modern Greece. Austin, TX: 
University of Texas Press. 

1987. Anthropology through the looking glass. Critical Ethnography in the Margins of Europe. 
Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. 

Hitchens, Christopher. 

1997. The Elgin marbles: Should they be returned to Greece? London: Verso. 

Hobsbawn, Eric. 

1983. Introduction: Inventing traditions. In The invention of tradition, ed. Eric Hobsbawm and 
Terence Ranger, 1-14. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. 

Huxley, Thomas. 

1853. Scientific memoirs: Natural history selected from the transactions of foreign academies of 
science and from foreign journals. London: Taylor and Francis. 

Jenkins, Ian. 

2007. The Parthenon sculptures in the British Museum. London: BM Press. 

Kakridis, I. T. 

1978. Oi Archaioi Ellhnes stlm Neoellnikh Laiki Paradosi. Athens: MIET. 

Kitromilides, P. 

1989. Imagined communities and the origin of the national question in the Balkans. European 
History Quarterly 19(2): 149-194. 

Lorenz, Konrad. 

1978. Behind the mirror: A search for natural history of human knowledge. New York, NY: 
Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich. (Original print Konrad Lorenz, Die Ruckseite des Spiengels: 
Versoch einer Naturgeschichse menschichen Erkennens. Munich, 1973.) 

Lowenthal, David. 

2004. The heritage crusade and the spoils of history. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University 

Meliarakes, A. 

1884. Ekdhlosh sthn Akropoli ton Athenon. (Ceremony on the acropolis of Athens). Hestia, 
18(477), 22 July 1884. 

Mpiris, K. 

1 996. Ai Athinai apo tou 1 9ou os ton 20ou aiona (Athens of the 1 9th until the 20th century). Third 
edition. Athens: Melissa Publications. 

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Pyburn, K. 

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Renan, Ernest. 

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1880. Athens, Greece. 

St. Clair, William. 

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Tschumi, Bernard. 

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99-106. Melboume/Oxford, MA/ Auckland/New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 

Chapter 8 

Syrian National Museums: Regional Politics 
and the Imagined Community 

Kari A. Zobler 


Syria became a sovereign nation in 1946 after a long period of colonization by 
the Ottoman Empire and France. Europe carved up the former Ottoman Empire by 
imposing new and relatively arbitrary national borders (through the Sykes-Picot 
agreement crafted by France) that largely ignored the region’s myriad ethnic groups 
and complex political landscape. This had a lasting legacy. Modern Syria encom- 
passes members of diverse political, ethnic, and religious affiliations who share 
common ground, but not the same cultural background. 

Despite Syria’s long history of exploitation and occupation by foreign powers, 
many of which arrogated to themselves the right to control and recast the region’s 
proud past for their own ends, the Syrian nation-state has continued to refash- 
ion its national identity using its cultural patrimony, while tolerating vestiges of 
the colonial era. On the front lines, archaeologists uncover the material remains 
of Syria’s ancient inhabitants, but once these objects leave the trenches they are 
re-contextualized in museums. 

Postcolonial Syria inherited a national museum system originated by nationalist 
intellectuals and later manipulated by the French in order to solidify its fledgling 
authority, as well as justify its cumbersome borders. These museums were refash- 
ioned to promote Syrian identity and cast off the colonial yoke, though the process 
is still ongoing as they reconcile political independence with the vestiges of a colo- 
nial system and lack of financial resources. The different stories of Syrian identity 
that Syria’s museums relate through the re-contextualization of the past provide an 
excellent case study for examining the construction of local communities within 
a national shared heritage in a relatively new nation-state. Thus, Syria provides 
an ideal case for examining the appropriation of heritage in building community 
cohesion and national legitimization. 

K.A. Zobler (El) 

Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801, USA 

H. Silverman (ed.), Contested Cultural Heritage, 

DOI 10.1007/978-l-4419-7305-4_8, © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 201 1 



K.A. Zobler 

Fig. 8.1 Map of Syria showing the locations of national museums. (Kari Zobler) 

Whereas foreign expeditions once exported Syria’s antiquities to fill the museums 
of the Ottoman Empire, Europe, and the USA, now the Syrian National Museum 
network safeguards and exhibits the nation’s archaeological collections (Fig. 8.1). 
Although these institutions are administered by a single government entity — the 
Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums — and draw from the same cultural 
patrimony, the museums portray unique visions of Syrian identity and heritage. In 
this chapter, I examine the construction of community and national identity in Syria 
through the museum system in a multi-scalar approach, examining three museums, 
each occupying a different hierarchical level in the Syrian museum system in terms 
of bureaucratic authority, the tourist industry, and resource base. The museums are 
the National Museum of Damascus, representing the official narrative of the capi- 
tal and the only museum in this study located in the southern part of the country; 
the National Museum of Aleppo, which represents a significant northern center and 
regional perspective; and the Raqqa Museum , which is a small provincial institution 
in north-central Syria at the confluence of the Euphrates and Balikh Rivers. 

8 Syrian National Museums 


Collecting the Past: Theoretical Underpinnings 
for Understanding Syria 

The Near East has long occupied the Western imagination (Said 1978). Western 
merchants, missionaries, tourists, archaeologists, and adventurers have journeyed 
to the region in search of an exotic “other” and the Biblical origins of their 
own identity. Many have explicitly sought an authentic experience, and much of 
the modern tourist market has been predicated on providing it. In this regard, 
modern museums are one of the primary mechanisms for adroitly repackaging 
heritage to meet patterns of consumption (Hobsbawm 1983; Hooper-Greenhill 
1992), national agendas, and regional politics. Virtually outside this process, 
archaeologists uncover the material remains of past cultures, but rarely con- 
sider the subsequent re-contextualization of these artifacts in the modern eye 
and tourist market. This disjunction is especially acute in the Syrian museum 

The desire to collect is a familiar part of ancient and modern life, allowing us 
to grasp the material manifestations of memory (Baudrillard 1996; Pearce 1992). 
In Near Eastern antiquity, heirloom items were often reused and kings kept collec- 
tions of their forefathers. Nabonidus, the king of Babylon, like other kings before 
him, commissioned excavations to investigate earlier buildings and recover antiq- 
uities. Spolia (re-appropriated architectural elements) were frequently incorporated 
into later structures for political and ideological aims (Brenk 1987; Shaw 2003:36), 
and theft of iconic objects was a source of conflict, such as the removal of cult 
statues by conquering armies. In 1595 B.C., Mursilis I, the Hittite king, stole the 
cult statue of the god Marduk from its cult center at Babylon during a military 
campaign and brought it to his own capital. The return of this statue by a Kassite 
king of Babylonia was considered a major achievement, although subsequent con- 
querors of Babylon would also take the statue as a symbol of their domination. 
Collection implies ownership and universal dominion over the lands from which 
objects originate (Barringer and Flynn 1998). The exhibition or occlusion of col- 
lected material draws on a public consciousness of the past and our relationship 
with it in the present. 

While the desire to collect has long existed, the museumization of the past in the 
Middle East has been a more recent phenomenon, linked to the Ottoman expansion 
and developments in Europe. By the late nineteenth century, museums already had a 
long history in Europe, acting as sources of national pride representing the antiquity 
of the region’s cultural heritage, the legitimacy of the modem state, and in some 
instances, evidence of a nation’s imperial scope (Duncan and Wallach 2004). The 
modern museum was born at the Louvre following the French Revolution, which 
represented the first public museum in which communal ownership and identity 
were emphasized (McClellan 1994). Occupation of Syria by the Ottoman Empire, 
which was influenced by European museums, created a climate of familiarity in 
Syria with European museum practice at the turn of the twentieth century. As a 
colonial holding of the French during the Mandate following World War I, Syria 
was heavily influenced by French museology. 


K.A. Zobler 

With the birth of the Syrian nation-state, political boundaries were codified under 
a single government whose mission was to legitimize its own position both domesti- 
cally and abroad by creating a sense of community cohesion around a shared cultural 
heritage (Lowenthal 1994). Anderson (1983) has demonstrated that the concept of 
the bounded nation-state is a modem political aberration that presented significant 
problems for group cohesion in an artificially constructed region with diverse eth- 
nic, religious, and linguistic groups. Thus, the new government of the Syrian Arab 
Republic developed a strategy for community cohesion that would transcend diver- 
sity. One strategy was co-option of the past and manipulation of the presentation 
of heritage so as to create a sense of shared identity in the “imagined community” 
of the nation-state. Syrian national museums became the keepers of the material 
evidence of this cohesion, built on a shared past and landscape. 

Museums are legitimizing spaces for the production of knowledge, in which 
they shape the information presented just as they frame the objects themselves 
(Hooper-Greenhill 1992). As the official authority on the production of knowl- 
edge and keepers of the past, museums function as disciplinary spaces in which 
particular narratives are emphasized. By experiencing the narrative presented in a 
national museum, the public is inculcated into the nation-state through a “ritual of 
citizenship” (Duncan 1995). The power of the modern museum and its manipulation 
by the nation-state has been termed the “exhibitionary complex” by Tony Bennett, 
who sees the increasingly public nature of museums and antiquity display and their 
accompanying representation as forming “vehicles for inscribing and broadcasting 
messages of power . . . throughout society” (1995:333). Thus, the museum became 
poised as the ideological vehicle for identity creation and community cohesion of 
the modern nation-state. 

The Birth of the Syrian Arab Republic 
and the National Museum of Damascus 

Damascus is one of the world’s oldest cities, founded in approximately 9000 B.C. 
(Burns 2005; Pitard 1987). It has served as an important Roman trading center, 
the Umayyad imperial capital, the burial place of Saladin, and the political seat 
of a French colony. Today, Damascus is the capital of the Syrian Arab Republic 
and a thriving cosmopolitan city with a population of over four million people. 
The palimpsest of occupation, competing interests, and architectural achievement 
present in Damascus represents, in microcosm, changes occurring throughout the 
region over millennia. 

The French occupation of Syria arose out of a desire for the national prestige of 
colonial holdings in the imperial era following World War I, as well as competing 
economic interests with Britain [Note 1]. The Mandate (1918-1946) was essen- 
tially a military occupation that was incredibly costly and never entirely effective 
(Fieldhouse 2006). It is in this climate that the national museum system arose, and 
through which it survived to contribute to the formation of Syrian identity within a 
colonial, and then liberated, discourse. 

8 Syrian National Museums 


Fig. 8.2 Photograph of the courtyard of the Madrasa al ‘Adiliya, following its 1919 restoration. 
(Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford) 

The National Museum of Damascus has long been a Syrian cultural institution 
producing identity through the archaeological past. It is located near the banks of 
the Barada River, across from the Ottoman monument of Al-Takiyya Sulaymaniya 
in the heart of downtown Damascus. Its present location was chosen to house the 
material based on the exigencies of exhibiting a pre-existing collection amassed by 
the Arab Academy ( al-majma‘al-‘ilmi al-‘arabi ) at the turn of the twentieth cen- 
tury, first displayed in the Madrasa al ‘Adiliya in the Bab al-Barid (Fig. 8.2). This 
collection was created with donations from the local community and first curated 
by Amir Ja‘far ‘Abd al-Qadir, who was a former student of the Ecole du Louvre 
(Watenpaugh 2004:93). The collection focused on Islamic material, reflecting the 
organization’s mission to exhibit ancient and historic Syrian culture as a means for 
combating the ideological intrusion of Ottoman imperialism, which was viewed as 
manifestly and intentionally deleterious to Arab identity. Until this time, significant 
archaeological finds in Syria were removed to Constantinople by the Ottoman state 
(Faraj al-Ush et al. 1999; Shaw 2003; Watenpaugh 2004). 

The original collection of the Arab Academy, which was amassed in 1919, 
focused on material from the Islamic period, highlighting these and other more 
ancient artifacts in three rooms of the madrasa. Islamic material filled the cen- 
tral dome, while pre-Islamic material and the offices and library of the Arab 
Academy occupied the remaining two rooms. The Arab Academy formed part of 
the nationalist movement during this period, collecting in a time of brief Syrian 
independence under a reluctant King Faysal’s United Syrian Kingdom (1918-1920), 


K.A. Zobler 

which included Lebanon and Palestine. The group’s collection focused on Islamic 
unity in Syria in an era characterized by recovery from Ottoman occupation and 
resistance to French interests. 

The French solidified their colonial presence in Syria during the Mandate (1918— 
1946). The French colonial policy was intent on maintaining political and ethnic 
distinctions between the people and territories of Syria and Lebanon in an effort to 
effect better overall control of “la Syrie integrate” (Fieldhouse 2006). The French 
holdings in Syria were split into five separate “states,” centered on Damascus, 
Aleppo, Homs, Hama, and Alexandretta. Damascus and Aleppo were fused into 
the single state of Syria in 1925, and Alexandretta was ceded to Turkey in 1939. 
The majority of governance by the French High Commissioner and the ministries 
was carried out in Beirut, while the rest of Syria was left to a thin veneer of local 
control with French “advisors.” By the terms of the Mandate, France was required 
to relinquish direct control of the region by April 1926, having provided the infras- 
tructure for a viable local government, similar to the British agreement with Iraq of 
1930. The French were, however, reluctant to do so and the drafting and ratification 
of a new constitution languished for years after the deadline. 

Control of the Arab Academy collection shifted to the Ministry of Public 
Instruction of Syria through decrees made by the High Commissioner in 1926 and 
1928, yet the collection continued to be housed at the madrasa. With the creation of 
the Sendee des Antiquites around 1920, national museums in Damascus and Aleppo 
were formalized. Transference of the Damascus Museum under French administra- 
tion was part of the larger move to seemingly create the infrastructure for a new 
nation-state, while simultaneously undermining that effort. The French authorities 
were also likely interested in containing nationalist organizations that displayed 
evidence of the region’s rich history, as they were simultaneously coping with the 
Great Rebellion of 1925-1927. Even in the official Damascus Museum guide that 
was published in the 1960s, the High Commissioner’s decree of May 8, 1928, 
which effectively shifted control of the collection by placing the Arab Academy 
under French direction, portrays this action as an “emancipation” which led to the 
“prodigious development” of the museum (Abdul-Hak n.d.:2). 

During the 1920s and early 1930s, many new archaeological sites were discov- 
ered and excavations commenced — including large-scale excavations at Palmyra, 
Mari, Dura Europus, and the Qasr al-Hayr al Gharbi — to document past glories and 
to add to the museum’s collection (Abdul-Hak n.d.; Faraj al-Ush 1999). Much of 
the materials from these early excavations were split between the Syrian museums 
and the Louvre. Although the Louvre was already full of antiquities from cen- 
turies of colonial expansion in the Middle East, there was an increased sense of 
urgency because of restricted excavation regulations in nearby Turkey and British 
Iraq, which encouraged many British and American archaeologists to shift their 
attentions to Syria, where antiquities export laws were far more favorable to the 
imperial powers (Goode 2007:206-210). 

Once the wealth of Syrian antiquities was realized, it became clear that the 
original madrasa was spatially inadequate to house the National Museum of 
Damascus and a new building was planned for construction. The Ministry of 

8 Syrian National Museums 


Religious Endowments, which had been controlled by the French since 1923-1924 
(Fieldhouse 2006:261), was assigned the task of identifying a suitable location for 
the new museum, and two delegates were sent to France to study European muse- 
ological practice (Issa 2007:16). In 1936, construction began on a new National 
Museum designed by Michel Ecochard specifically to house the existing collec- 
tion and newly excavated material (Watenpaugh 2004:196). In an effort to amass 
even more materials, French authorities expropriated antiquities from the regional 
collection in Aleppo dating to the Classical and Islamic eras. What little prehis- 
toric material the Damascus Museum contained was sent to Aleppo, which was 
designated the official museum for all objects dating before 500 B.C. (Abdul-Flak 
n.d.). The new policy favored Damascus in the balance of antiquities, and neglected 
Aleppo, which had suffered much under the Ottoman regime’s policy of expropri- 
ating antiquities. Aleppo was one of the only viable options for expropriation by 
the French, however, since it boasted its own small collection and was one of the 
few regions of French Syria still under full control of the Mandate, as many other 
regions, such as those of the Druze and Alawites, had seceded. During the same 
year, negotiations were held between the Bloc Party of Syria (a popular nationalist, 
yet French collaborative group) and the French government in Paris to settle the 
terms of Syrian independence, still anathema to the French. 

The French intended to use the new museum as a means to engender cohesion 
around a collaborative, more secularized national icon — marginalizing the Islamic 
period and the inherent political and religious overtones. While its original installa- 
tion betrays its purpose as an Arab nationalist tool by using Islam as a key ideational 
parameter, the new museum under the French sought to “balance” the Syrian past 
by highlighting Hellenistic and Byzantine material. The French invoked past colo- 
nization and foreign occupation as an ex post facto justification and legitimization 
of their own colonial venture — it was an inexorable, recurrent, and beneficial histor- 
ical pattern. They also sought to dilute Arab nationalist agendas, accentuating the 
diversity of Syria’s past by de-emphasizing religious or ethnic commonalities. 

The original plan of the two-story Damascus Museum included a hall, two exhi- 
bition galleries, four other rooms, and an administrative section (Faraj al-Ush 1999). 
The upper floor consisted of three rooms. In 1952, the administrative offices were 
moved to the second floor; artifacts from newly excavated sites in the north (such as 
Mari, Ugarit, and Raqqa) were displayed in the vacated area. A new, three-story sec- 
tion was added to the museum in 1953 to exhibit modern art and Islamic antiquities, 
and a Department of Islamic- Arab Antiquities was officially created in 1954. A new 
west wing opened in 1961, which included a gallery, three halls, and a lecture space, 
partially to house the recently donated Damascene Hall (see below). Prehistoric 
materials were exhibited on a temporary basis until their permanent inclusion in the 
museum in 2004 (al-Moadin et al. 2006). 

Although Damascus is teeming with historic buildings — the Ottomans and 
Umayyads having left a particularly significant mark on the urban landscape — the 
national museum was installed in a modern, newly constructed building, placed 
across from an important Ottoman monument. The Damascus Museum was a 
significantly more modern setting than the original Ayyubid madrasa, which served 


K.A. Zobler 

as a traditional center of learning and cultural shorthand for the production of 

In order to anchor its place as the national authority on the Syrian past, the new 
museum sought to authenticate itself by adopting the facades of older structures. 
The synagogue of Dura Europus, the nation’s oldest synagogue dating to the Roman 
period, was excavated in 1922 and the murals were partially reconstructed within 
the museum in a special wing built for its inclusion (Faraj al-Ush et al. 1999). The 
next planned addition was of the Hypogeum of Yarhai from Palmyra, which was 
excavated in 1934 and emphasizes a foreign presence in ancient Syria (Faraj al-Ush 
et al. 1999). As international politics shifted and excavations continued, there was a 
renewed interest in the Islamic era in the installment of facades. The front entrance 
received the columned facade of the Qasr al-Hayr al Gharbi, greeting the visitor 
with a decidedly Islamic identity (Fig. 8.3). The palace facade, which had been 
excavated in 1939, was completely installed by 1950. Within the museum, a room 
of a traditional Damascene house was reconstructed, showcasing the wood paneling 
and traditional inlay of eighteenth-century Islamic architecture (Fig. 8.4). This room 
facade, donated to the museum in 1958 by Jamil Mardam Bey, Syria’s prime min- 
ister, was a portion of his historic home that had escaped damage by French strike 
planes (Issa 2007:106) during the last violent throes for independence at the close 
of the Mandate. Its placement in the museum showcases not only national pride in 
the Islamic past, but also suggests divine favor in the struggle against the French 
and growing nationalist sentiment. 

Fig. 8.3 Front entrance of the National Museum of Damascus with the fa5ade of the Qasr al-FIayr 
al Gharbi. (Photo: Kari Zobler) 

8 Syrian National Museums 


Fig. 8.4 Interior of the 
Damascene Hall in the 
National Museum of 
Damascus. (Photo: Kari 

Although the French had a clear plan for the new museum, the institution 
gradually took on the more nationalist approach of the Bloc Party, later the 
Nationalist Party, which maintained increased control as World War II loomed and 
French military resources were diverted elsewhere (Fieldhouse 2006:270). Although 
direct control of Syria by the French effectively ended in 1941, the Mandate offi- 
cially wore on until 1946 (Fieldhouse 2006:275-277). The museum was completed 
4 years after the official end of the Mandate, opening in 1950, and was placed under 
the direction of the newly formed Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums 
around 1952. A guide to the museum was printed in 1952 for its first major exhi- 
bition, explaining the collection and some of the state-sponsored archaeological 
excavations (Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums 1952). 

The departure of the French signaled a shift in the museum’s focus to again high- 
light the Islamic past, though objects from all periods of Syrian history are included. 
Classical and Byzantine material forms the second main focus of the museum. 
While excavation of these Hellenistic sites may have begun as a French strategy 


K.A. Zobler 

for diffusion of the Syrian Islamic past, the continued presence of the material in 
the museum indicates a strategy of inclusion for Western cultural elements. Since 
the museum itself is a Western concept, nationalists in the newly formed Syrian gov- 
ernment sought to present Syria on the global stage with a diverse heritage, familiar 
to foreign powers and tourists alike. 

In the years following its opening, the National Museum of Damascus has grown 
to almost four times its original size, with major additions in 1953, 1963, 1974, 
and 2004 (al-Moadin et al. 2006:3). The museum also has altered its organization, 
though it has retained the same general focus with the exception of the reintroduc- 
tion of pre-Islamic antiquities. It is primarily divided into five sections following 
a chronological scheme: Prehistoric, Ancient Orient, Greco-Roman and Byzantine, 
Islamic, and Modern Art (al-Moadin et al. 2006; Issa 2007). The museum does not 
address more recent political history, such as the French Mandate or the rise of the 
Ba’th Party. Artifacts are displayed within these general headings, which function 
more as a didactic device for publications than as a suggested path for viewing the 
museum, though the visitor is encouraged to begin with the prehistoric material in 
the Concise Guide (Faraj al-Ush et al. 1999:8). Rooms and vitrines are generally 
organized by excavation site, but the overall script is one of unity. In addition to 
the five main departments, the museum also includes a sculpture garden, a cafe, and 
gift shop. 

Attendance at the museum is mixed between foreign tourists and locals, with 
separate entrance fees, though foreigners seem to make up the majority of the 
institution’s patronage. Signage is inconsistent and is frequently in English and/or 
Arabic, though its inconsistencies make it difficult for either locals or tourists to 
interact with the exhibits on a more profound level. Older metal plaques detailing the 
origins of the contents of each room as well as museum policies are in French and 
Arabic, betraying the building’s inception as a French colonial institution (Fig. 8.5). 
The official language of the office of the Directorate-General of Antiquities and 
Museums is still French. 

Increased outreach to the local population and changing Syrian political alliances 
are slowly attaining visibility within the museum. A new educational center recently 
opened (in 2007-2008) near the museum’s entrance, allowing children the oppor- 
tunity to write in cuneiform, make clay figurines, and conduct their own mock 
archaeological excavations. The intent is to more fully involve local school children 
in their ancient past, which is infrequently mentioned in primary school textbooks, 
which focus on Islamic heritage. Syria’s positive diplomatic relationship with China 
is also becoming apparent, with Chinese cultural festivals occurring on the grounds 
of the museum and temporary exhibits planned around the theme of Chinese culture. 

Perhaps the impetus for some of the museum’s recent community outreach activ- 
ities stems from a new agreement between Italy and the Syrian Arab Republic that 
is intended to overhaul the museum system, with special focus on Damascus. A 
new initiative for the “Renovation and Reorganization of the National Museum of 
Damascus and Rehabilitation of the Citadel of Damascus” was signed between the 
Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Directorate-General of Antiquities and 
Museums of the Syrian Ministry of Culture on November 24, 2004 in Damascus 

8 Syrian National Museums 


Fig. 8.5 Entrance plaque outside the National Museum of Damascus. (Photo: Kari Zobler) 

(a similar agreement with the Idlib Regional Museum was signed in 2005). The 
project, begun in February 2007, is scheduled to last for 3 years. The plan 
includes a mandate for increased community involvement, specialized training for 
the Directorate-General staff, new museological guidelines, a heritage database 
and increased outreach to archaeological sites, updated storage and exhibition 
equipment, and a complete re-design of the permanent exhibitions. The proposed 
exhibition changes are planned to be tested on the Classical section and are targeted 
toward modernization of the displays and improved text panels. 

The National Museum of Damascus’ mission is to represent Syrian culture from 
a singular national perspective, irrespective of regional differences, both ancient 
and modern. The museum invokes the authenticity of the Syrian past in a unified 
form to justify modern cohesion under originally colonial borders, encompassing 
diverse ethnic and religious populations. The authentic Syria is manifested through 
the collection of artifacts from across the national territory, which are repackaged in 
the museum for tourist audiences and the “imagined community” of the nation-state. 

Regional Museums and the Renegotiation of Identity 

The National Museum of Damascus does not operate in isolation, but in a network 
of approximately 30 Syrian museums administered by the Directorate-General of 
Antiquities and Museums. Although all museums in the Syrian national system rely 
on the same pool of archaeological resources, each exhibits a distinct narrative of 


K.A. Zobler 

the Syrian past. Whereas Damascus presents the image of a unified Syria, provin- 
cial museums in the north focus on regional achievement and ancient autonomy, 
independent of the cultural accomplishments of the south. This regional focus is due 
largely to historical circumstances, which include both ancient rivalries and modern 
politics. Two additional case studies illustrate the disjuncture between the museo- 
logical script of the National Museum of Damascus in comparison to its regional 
counterparts. The National Museum in Aleppo and the Raqqa Museum offer two 
alternate narratives of Syrian heritage, presenting distinctly northern perspectives 
on Syrian identity. 

The National Museum of Aleppo: 

Northern Identity and Ancient Autonomy 

Aleppo, located in northwestern Syria, rivals Damascus as one of the world’s oldest 
continually occupied cities. It boasts a rich and varied history of strategic importance 
as a trade center, political outpost, and contact zone between the Hellenistic sphere 
of the Mediterranean, Anatolia, and Mesopotamia, positioning it as an important 
center for the negotiation of Syrian identity. Aleppo has long rivaled Damascus in 
trade and as the preeminent seat of political power. Today, this bustling provincial 
capital is home to more than one and a half million residents. It boasts a vibrant 
tourist economy centered on the Islamic ruins of the Aleppo Citadel and the famed 
covered souq, and balances urban expansion with a UNESCO-recognized historic 
city center. 

At the turn of the twentieth century, Aleppo was home to its own local intel- 
lectual club dedicated to the scholarly study of the past, the Archaeological Society 
(. Jam ‘iyyat al- ‘Adiyyat), which was founded in 1931 by Kamil al-Ghazzi, a local his- 
torian who became the group’s president (Watenpaugh 2004:194). Unlike the Arab 
Academy of Damascus, which was formed in response to Ottoman occupation, the 
Aleppo academics’ collection was amassed during an era of French collaboration, 
and was first curated by a Frenchman, Georges Ploix de Rotrou, who was part of the 
society. The collection was first housed in the home of the High Commissioner’s 
representative, which was located near the now famous Baron Hotel (Watenpaugh 

At the beginning of the Mandate, French policy makers desired to divide Syria 
into five separate “states” as a means to pacify multiple ethnic groups, which were 
easier to administer separately than as a single entity united under Arab nationalism. 
Aleppo would have become the capital of one of these, achieving its long-standing 
goal of political distinction from Damascus. A large government facility was built 
in the Sharia al-Maari area at the center of town to serve as the nerve center 
for the intended secession. When the Mandate ended and these plans were still 
not fully realized, the building became the National Museum of Aleppo (Saouaf 
1958:6). The contents of the museum were assembled from the previously orphaned 
Archaeological Society collection (now including many replicas), and the museum 
aligned its focus accordingly. 

8 Syrian National Museums 


When the national museum system was institutionalized under the French 
Mandate’s Service des Antiquites, the Aleppo collection was reorganized. The 
institutionalization of Syria’s museums meant that objects could be relocated to 
other locations, regardless of their region of origin. Such was the case in Aleppo, 
which sent many of its objects dating after 500 B.C. to the National Museum of 
Damascus (Abdul-Hak n.d.; Saouaf 1958). While some detailed copies were made 
to replace the requisitioned objects in Aleppo, most of the originals were removed 
to Damascus to bolster their museum collection in preparation for the new museum 

Although the Aleppo Museum houses many of the same antiquities as Damascus, 
especially since so much of the original holdings were replicated, the museum’s 
focus is decidedly prehistoric. The museum focuses on excavated materials from 
the entire north of Syria, including the Aleppo and Raqqa Provinces, including 
prehistoric, pre-Islamic, Hellenistic, and Islamic material. 

The design of the Aleppo Museum building is reminiscent of a Byzantine palace, 
with a central courtyard and three stories of surrounding rooms. The facade of the 
building is a replica of the Tell Halaf/Guzana portico (Fig. 8.6). Thus, the building 
mimics a palace both in facade and internal structure. The original government pur- 
pose for the building is appropriate for the invocation of ancient icons of authority. 
It is interesting that the National Museums in Damascus and Aleppo both employ 

Fig. 8.6 Front entrance of the National Museum of Aleppo, featuring a fa9ade replica of the Tell 
Halaf/Guzana portico. (Photo: Kari Zobler) 


K.A. Zobler 

Fig. 8.7 Prehistoric gallery on the first floor of the National Museum of Aleppo. (Photo: Kari 

palace facades to mark their entrances, illustrating the importance of the museum 
as a cultural institution. It is telling that the Damascus Museum, which focuses on 
shared Islamic identity, is faced with an Islamic palace, while the Aleppo Museum, 
which emphasizes local antiquity, chose a northern palace of the pre-Islamic era. 

The three-story museum is currently undergoing renovations, but the exhibit 
organization has remained much the same. The bottom floor consists of prehis- 
toric and pre-Islamic antiquities arranged chronologically and secondarily by site 
of origin (Fig. 8.7). Exhibits are a mixture of museum displays and project-based 
displays, with varying degree in the quality of presentation. The second floor is 
occupied by office space. The third floor, which is only partially open for exhibition 
and is in a continuing state of renovation, exhibits Classical and Byzantine material 
as well as a small, closed Islamic section. The architectural message of the museum 
is clear: the later achievements of foreign colonists and the Islamic unity empha- 
sized by the south are supported (literally and figuratively) on the firm foundation 
of the prehistoric and pre-Islamic past, particularly in the north. 

While Damascus seeks to unify all of Syria under one national banner, and 
thus emphasizes presumably shared aspects of heritage such as Islam, the Aleppo 
Museum presents itself as a survey of the north alone. It emphasizes the material 
dealing with Aleppo’s antiquity and early cultural diversity in the north, with little 
mention of southern archaeological materials or cultures. While this focus began as 
a mandate from the French controlled museum system, its continuation has become 

8 Syrian National Museums 


part of a modem strategy. The unifying force of Islam presented so strongly in the 
Damascus Museum is not even open to the public of the Aleppo Museum. The 
ideological implications are manifest: national identity is subordinate to regional 

The Raqqa Museum: Modest Resources, Limitless Future 

Raqqa (or Ar-Raqqa) is a small but growing regional city (population of just under 
200,000) located in a remote section of the jezireh in northern Syria, at the con- 
fluence of the Balikh and Euphrates Rivers. The environmental advantages of the 
region have been recognized for millennia, as evidenced by nearby Tell Bl’a and the 
prehistoric Tell Zeydan. 

Established by the Seleucids in the third century B.C., and rumored to have been 
founded by Alexander the Great, the Hellenistic city of Raqqa, named Kallinokos, 
functioned as a trading outpost for much of antiquity [Note 2]. It was conquered 
by Tyad ibn Ghanim in the seventh century A.D. and renamed ar-Raqqa, during 
which time it served a strategic function between the regions of modern Syria, Iraq, 
and Turkey. Under the Umayyads, the town remained relatively small, but was agri- 
culturally prosperous. A fortified garrison was built by the Abbasids in 771-772 
A.D. west of the city, establishing an Abbasid presence in northern Syria and func- 
tioning as an outpost against Byzantium. The garrison town expanded to the north 
and was named al-Rafiqa, which functioned in tandem with Raqqa. In 796-797 
A.D., the city gained fame as government capital and summer retreat for Harun 
al-Rashld, though the majority of imperial administration remained in Baghdad. 
The city served as an important checkpoint for inland travel and trading along the 
Euphrates from Baghdad. After the death of Harun al-Rashld, Raqqa declined in 
regional importance and was ruled by Bedouin. It enjoyed a brief florescence under 
the Ayyubids before being destroyed by invading Mongols in the thirteenth century. 
In the sixteenth century, the Ottomans designated Raqqa as a police post within the 
newly created province of Raqqa, but administration still remained in Edessa (mod- 
ern Urfa), Turkey. Foreign Bedouin populations from the Arabian Peninsula moved 
into this region during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, altering the balance 
of power with regard to the sedentary tribal population, the shawai 'a, who already 
lived there [Note 3], 

When the French Mandate began as the Ottomans vacated, the city of Raqqa 
remained part of Raqqa Province, but was no longer tied to Turkey. While under 
Mandate, Syria was generally split into five “states,” the jezireh , including Raqqa, 
was administered directly by France at Deir ez-Zor. Raqqa’s remote position during 
the Mandate briefly improved its political position, when because of its distance 
from the new seat of power, the Bedouin of the province briefly declared inde- 
pendence from the French and set up their own administration. Within 15 months, 
however, the French had regained control of the region. 

Soon after the end of the Mandate, Raqqa underwent a demographic shift, as a 
significant population of Syrians from the eastern town of Deir ez-Zor migrated to 


K.A. Zobler 

the city. The migration was partially brought on by increased economic opportunity 
in Raqqa because of cotton cultivation, which had been introduced to the area in the 
1940s. With the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, cotton prices soared, which 
spurred further cultivation. Due to the influx of new residents, Raqqa expanded 
quickly and urbanized, which created an even sharper divide between townspeo- 
ple (who were cultivating the cotton) and Bedouins. Since many of Raqqa’s more 
influential inhabitants still trace their families back to Deir ez-Zor, ethnic tensions 
have mounted between populations. Raqqa was made the official seat of Raqqa 
Province by the Syrian government in 1961, and expansion continued in the area as 
a result of the Tabqa Dam Project, spurring increased economic growth and many 
archaeological salvage excavations. 

The Raqqa Museum serves as a valuable cohesive entity, exhibiting the shared 
past associated with the land and territory of Raqqa Province more than any partic- 
ular ethnos. Located in a modest, two-story Mandate-period building in the heart of 
the provincial center (Fig. 8.8), the museum collection, installed in 1982, in what 
was formerly the police headquarters, includes pre-lslamic, Classical, and Islamic 
material from al-Rafiqa. As in Aleppo, many of the best pieces excavated in Raqqa 
Province were sent to Damascus to augment the capital museum. Additionally, 
Raqqa has the added hindrance of much of its remaining material being usurped 
by Aleppo, which asserted cultural dominance over the north during the Mandate. 

Fig. 8.8 Exterior of the Raqqa Museum. (Photo: Kari Zobler) 

8 Syrian National Museums 


Fig. 8.9 First floor interior of the Raqqa Museum. (Photo: Kari Zobler) 

Thus, although the province of Raqqa is rich in archaeological heritage, much of the 
finest material is sent to either the Aleppo or Damascus Museums. 

The museum is organized chronologically, with pre-Islamic and Classical mate- 
rial occupying the bottom floor (Fig. 8.9), as well as the administrative office of 
the museum, while the second floor is comprised of Islamic material from excava- 
tions at al-Rafiqa. Due to limitations in exhibition space, which the collection has 
long outgrown, much of what is held by the museum is occluded in storage facil- 
ities. Many of the displays have been organized by individual excavations in the 
province, and thus the quality of information and the language of presentation vary 

Although it was an important trading-post between Bedouin and townspeople, 
Raqqa proper does not have the same antiquity as the much larger centers of Aleppo 
or Damascus. The melange of ethnic groups and subsistence economies of the 
province, which are exemplified in the city center, evidence the limits of a shared 
communal past on which to draw. The museum, therefore, chooses to focus on the 
future of the province, rather than its past. Nowhere is this ethic of development 
more emphasized in Raqqa than on the museum’s main floor, where a detailed 
model of the future Raqqa Museum is encased in glass (Fig. 8.10). Over 15,000 
square meters of land along the Euphrates River has been designated as the appro- 
priate site for the new museum, in a new part of the city that includes widened, 
modern streets and an athletic stadium. The proposed construction would vastly 


K.A. Zobler 

Fig. 8.10 Model of the future Raqqa Museum. (Photo: Kari Zobler) 

increase exhibit space in an entirely new facility, providing a point of pride for 
the community. Today, much of the museum’s holdings remain in storage awaiting 
construction of the new edifice. It has been more than 15 years since this model 
was first proposed, yet no new facility has materialized. The future of the museum 
and its collection has become so entrenched in the Raqqa Museum discourse of 
regional identity through progress that the model itself has been “museumized” and 
is encased in its own exhibition glass. 

Thus, the Raqqa Museum does not focus on the region’s antiquity (as does 
Aleppo) or its ideological cohesion under Islam (as in Damascus), but instead 
emphasizes future growth and development, reflecting the economic changes of 
recent decades. A clear sense of shared identity and community cohesion is created 
through emphasis on the future prospects of the region, rather than its tangled past. 
With a uniquely regional focus, Raqqa’s presentation of the Syrian past portrays 
present concerns and a vision for the future. 

The Future of Syrian Museums 

Syrian museums continue to cope with the vestiges of a colonial system in terms of 
hierarchy and collection, while selectively reshaping it to address current situations. 
Thus, although each museum draws from the same heritage and is administered by 

8 Syrian National Museums 


the same office and all communicate through a Western medium, each museum in 
the Syrian system presents a unique past, creating distinct formulations of Syrian 
identity. The National Museum of Damascus narrates a script of a united Syria 
based on past glories and modern cosmopolitan inclusivity. The National Museum 
of Aleppo portrays Syria as ancient, with the history of the north providing the roots 
of its legitimacy. The Raqqa Museum generates a script of progress and modernity, 
with an interest in the past but hopes clearly directed toward the future. 

The established hierarchies between different scales of museums and their cur- 
rent trading partners directly relate to available resources and to each museum’s 
ability to form a cohesive presentation of the past. During the Mandate, the French 
shaped Syrian heritage in the museum to portray a diverse Syria with Western 
emphasis. During the post-Mandate nationalist era, these priorities were gradually 
realigned, especially in major centers like Damascus, so as to center on an ostensibly 
shared Islamic identity. While this focus again privileged a particular population in 
an increasingly cosmopolitan nation, decision-making was autonomous. The politi- 
cally powerful will always maintain a strong role in defining heritage, though in the 
museum identity is built through visitor consensus. With the increased partnering 
of the Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums with foreign nations, such 
as the museum reorganization agreement signed with Italy, it will be interesting to 
see how representations of Syrian identity are further restructured along with the 
exhibits themselves. Further analysis may illustrate whether this new era of col- 
laboration signals the dawn of a broadening museological discourse, or a return to 
foreign identity construction mirroring the colonial system. 

One way Syrians may continue to reclaim their identity in the museum is through 
the incorporation of spolia. As the traditional form of heritage appropriation, spolia- 
tion transmits a conventionalized ideological message by incorporating the physical 
remnants of another structure — re-contextualizing tangible and intangible aspects of 
heritage. In fact, the museums of Damascus and Aleppo incorporated spolia during 
the waning years of the Mandate and its immediate aftermath, representing a re- 
appropriation of the museum as a local institution. In an interesting reversal, not only 
are spolia being incorporated into museums, but the historic structures that formerly 
housed them are becoming museum objects themselves. Like museum objects, these 
architectural elements lend authenticity and historical legitimacy to the modern 
edifices. This is a powerful statement on the authority of the new museum system. 

The future role of Syrian museums in defining national and regional identity will 
be a great one. Although in other Middle Eastern countries the museum has been 
regarded as an emblem of national pride and a means through which to experi- 
ence citizenship, Syria’s museums have, until recently, been more concerned with 
asserting national identity on the global stage and communicating provincial identity 
internally, rather than serving as the means for heritage introspection. Perhaps future 
exhibits will address more contemporary socio-political conditions as well as con- 
tinue the shift toward community outreach, which has already begun. The ongoing 
contestation of Syrian cultural heritage in the national museum system highlights 
its significance in identity construction and community cohesion. Syrian identity 


K.A. Zobler 

will continue to be renegotiated, and national museums at all levels will remain 
significant forces in that process. 

Acknowledgments I would like to thank the members of the Directorate-General of Antiquities 
and Museums for graciously answering my many questions. I also thank the Tell es-Sweyhat 
Archaeological Project, which provided me with my first introduction to Syria and continued 
research opportunities. Readers of this chapter offered invaluable constructive comments, and any 
remaining errors are my own. 


1 . For an in-depth historical overview of the French Mandate Period and post-Mandate nationalist 
fervor, see, e.g., Goode (2007), Khoury (1987), Longrigg (1972). 

2. For a comprehensive treatment of the Classical and Islamic periods of Raqqa, see Heidemann 

3. For a summary of Raqqa’s history from the Ottoman period to the present, see Lewis (1987) 
and Rabo (1986). 


Abdul-Hak, Selim. 

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NY: Verso. 

Barringer, Tim, and Tom Flynn. 

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1996. A marginal system: Collecting. In The system of objects, ed. Jean Baudrillard. New York, 
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Bennett, Tony. 

1995. The birth of the museum. New York, NY: Routledge. 

Brenk, Beat. 

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Duncan, Carol. 

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Fieldhouse, D. K. 

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Lewis, Norman N. 

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1972. Syria and Lebanon under French Mandate. New York, NY: Octagonal Books. 

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Leiden: Brill. 

Chapter 9 

Contestation from the Top: Fascism 
in the Realm of Culture and Italy’s 
Conception of the Past 

Alvaro Higueras 

We have made Italy, now we have to make Italians. 

(Massimo d’Azeglio, 1798-1866) 

It is from Italy that we launch into the world our manifesto of 
overwhelming and incendiary violence with which today we 
found Futurism, because we wish to free this country from its 
foul gangrene of teachers, archaeologists, tour guides and 
antique dealers. 

(Marinetti 1909) 

Nature . . . is the eternal past of our eternal present, the iron 
necessity of the past in the absolute freedom of the present. And 
beholding this nature, man in his spiritual life recovers the 
whole power of the mind and recognizes the infinite 
responsibility which lies in the use he makes of it. 

(Gentile 1922:252) 

The glories of the past [to] be surpassed by the glories of the 

(Epigraph on the columnar gate, 
Museo della Civilta Romana, 
EUR, Rome, 1937) 


In this chapter I review the evolution in the valuation of cultural heritage in Italy 
from the formation of the kingdom to the fascist period, a time span from 1860 
to 1945. This time span is punctuated in the early twentieth century by nascent 
philosophies and new approaches to heritage born from claims by Italian intellectu- 
als. In this analysis three periods are considered: (1 ) the birth of the kingdom of Italy 

A. Higueras (El) 

Department of Arts and Humanities, American University of Rome, Rome 00195, Italy 

H. Silverman (ed.), Contested Cultural Heritage, 

DOI 10.1007/978-l-4419-7305-4_9, © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 201 1 



A. Higueras 

and liberal politics (1860-1910) (first epigraph above); (2) the philosophies brew- 
ing in Italy (1910-1922) (second epigraph above); and (3) fascism and the imperial 
re-creation under Mussolini (1922-1943) (third and fourth epigraphs above). 

Valuing Cultural Heritage 

The discussion of how the past and cultural heritage are valued during the lifes- 
pan of the kingdom of Italy is central to this chapter. This case serves to show that 
there can be very different readings and uses of the rich past and heritage such 
as the one in Rome and Italy. More specifically, I will pinpoint here sources for 
contestation — drives not always emanating from a dominated and disadvantaged 
minority (e.g., Ross 2007). The facts related to the uses of the past reflect the 
vibrancy and dynamics of the new fascist regime in contrast to the liberal yet tradi- 
tional politics of the kingdom in its making of the Italian nation and nationality. In 
the first quote, made at the very formation of the kingdom of Italy in 1860, d’ Azeglio 
states that a new Italian identity had to be constructed as the backbone of the new 
congregation of very diverse peoples under one king. My objective is to gauge the 
achieved “improvements” in the city in relation to heritage rather than the existence 
of nationalism in the realm of cultural heritage policies in each period (see below). 

In contrast to the liberal period that inaugurates the history of Italy, the fascist 
period is a complete novelty in the European and Italian political spectrum. The 
contestation started by the trend of futurism prepares for the surprisingly easy accep- 
tance of fascism in the country. The 1909 futurist manifesto (second quote) proposes 
an important set of subversive propositions to the cultural sphere of the order estab- 
lished since 1870 with the kingdom of Italy. While it is understood that nationalism 
was both a political and cultural instrument in the process of unification of the odd 
territorial polities that controlled the peninsula before 1870, it grew with new steam 
in the early twentieth century but then dwindled to a non-existent leitmotif in the 
management of Italian cultural heritage during the late twentieth century. 

The city of Rome serves as our sample for this case study. It is the most important 
archaeological site in the country, as it was the capital of classical Roman society 
for about 1,000 years. Rome became the seat of the papacy after it lost its capital 
status in the year 330, and it regained its importance in the sixteenth century as the 
Popes increased their power and created the Papal States in the peninsula. Finally, 
as the capital to the new capital of the kingdom of Italy in 1870, Rome is where 
all the commemorative monuments for the unification and the new urbanization of 
the twentieth century took place. The projects of creating the new capital amidst 
the remains of ancient Rome and the spatial relationship between old and new were 
an underlying factor in the development of the city. But most importantly, the rela- 
tionship between politics and monuments is critical in reflecting the political trends 
dominating the country. 

While in Rome, it is difficult not to be very surprised by the conspicuous archi- 
tectural remnants of the liberal and fascist periods: megalomaniac monuments like 
the Vittoriano in the very central Piazza Venezia built in 1900 to honor Vittorio 
Emmanuelle II reflect the liberal period, and square-like buildings surrounding 

9 Contestation from the Top 


classical monuments belong to the fascist period. These monuments epitomize the 
momentum both political periods enjoyed: Italy celebrating the king of Savoy who 
became king of Italy, and Mussolini making sure to inscribe every new building he 
built. Both periods left a strong mark in the city, but the first was dedicated to build- 
ing a capital for the new kingdom while the second, with a more intrusive strategy, 
concentrated on markers for the new empire. Many features in the city witness the 
fascist period: numerous wall inscriptions still bear references to Benito Mussolini 
and obelisks and symbols of fasces on administration and sports buildings. Italy has 
had little reckoning with the consequences of fascism, at least in the material arena 
of fascist tangible heritage. 

Using the Nationalism Card 

Italian culture is rich and diverse and based on distinct regional traditions. The 
unification process and nationalism in their romantic shades were the key to the 
convergence of these traditions. Nationalism is an important concept in discussions 
that involve government policies or major revolutionary processes. However, for 
our present discussion nationalism is not useful to distinguish the two periods con- 
cerned: both liberal and fascist periods are embedded in a wave of nationalism, 
albeit with different results (see Adamson 1989:254). They conceived the classical 
past in distinct manners and materialized the coexistence of modem and ancient and 
the role of the classical past in the sphere of cultural heritage in very different ways. 

Kohl and Fawcett acknowledge that not all nationalist trends in history are neg- 
ative: “Like any form of archaeology, a responsible nationalist archaeology refuses 
to blur the distinctions between race, language and culture and denies the purity 
or biological superiority of any culture over any another” (1995:18). It is sensible 
to agree on this, however rare these non-chauvinistic nationalist policies might be. 
One of those rare situations is nationalism in Italy, which only later through fascism 
tended to bring out the worst facets of nationalist policies (not necessarily related to 
cultural heritage) [Note 1]. 

Nationalism was a crucial idea in the inception of the new Italian nation in 1860. 
It first had a political importance by creating a unified state from very conflicting and 
distinct polities dominating the peninsula. Then, from the very start of the kingdom 
of Italy, there emerged a radically new way of managing the cultural heritage only 
in part inherited from the pre-1870 political setting. In the case of Rome, Italy inher- 
ited all the lands and properties privately owned and exploited by the Papal State. 
After a strong period of nationalism on heritage came the fascist use of it. As said 
above, nationalism is today of minimal importance in the management of the rich 
cultural heritage in possession of the Italian State. Regionalism and local empow- 
erment trends have changed the way heritage is managed in the country, while still 
having the national heritage institution in charge of supervision tasks. 

In both periods of this analysis nationalism written large will be central in her- 
itage policy making (see Guidi 1996). They correspond to the definition Kohl and 
Fawcett favor: “all forms of nationalism are social constructions of reality, they are 
‘imagined communities,’ subconsciously fashioned and/or consciously invented and 


A. Higueras 

manipulated by social groups” (Kohl and Fawcett 1995:14). The creation of Italy is 
a very convincing example of this definition. Hobsbawm (1992) argues in this vein 
that states or nationalist politicians may, in fact, make nations, but they cannot totally 
make them up. It should be obvious that one could not have constructed mid to late 
nineteenth-century Italians out of cultural traditions other than peninsular. 

The advent of nationalism and the creation of Italy implied a strong change in 
the land property system, if not in the property of antiquities, in the policies of 
property of monuments and artifacts, and in the way the rich Roman underground 
was explored. From an archaeological point of view, this implies a change from 
making holes in the ancient Orti (gardens) of the city, or opening tumuli in Etruscan 
lands, to the systematic excavation of archaeological sites such as the Forum or the 
Palatine hill in the center of Rome, and, as Rome became the new capital, a dense 
urban expansion and the consequent discoveries below the surface. 

Finally, it would seem contradictory that the first period we treat here is named 
liberal while it has a strong nationalistic foundation. In normal situations, liber- 
alism and nationalism are opposites within a political scenario. Beiner (1999:167) 
thinks that “Nationalists in nineteenth-century Italy wanted to unify previously inde- 
pendent regions; nationalism was an expansive, cosmopolitanizing force.” In other 
words, the aim was to be an inclusive process that needed to amalgamate very dif- 
ferent peoples. Adamson (1989) is less convinced about viewing nationalism as an 
ingredient in the post-unification decades as he thinks it shed many features from 
its original unification-bound political agenda. Gentile suggests (2003 fix) that the 
leaders of the new Italy renounced “overt and aggressive” nationalism after the 
“revivalist” regional nationalisms that fueled the unification process. After renounc- 
ing this kind of nationalism, they concentrated on “internal unity and development.” 
This is the crux of the first decades of the new Italy: leaders were aiming at an 
overarching nationalism rather than encouraging local ones. 

Ancient Heritage and Origins of Interest 
in the Classical Heritage 

The present analysis starts with the advent of the new kingdom of Italy. Thus, we 
concentrate on a polity that is embedded in a strong nationalistic spree in its dealings 
with its new heritage and the past. This new state encompassed each of the several 
states that had settled the Italian Peninsula: the Papal States, the kingdom of Naples, 
and the Austrian provinces in Italy. It is only in the new kingdom that nationalism 
is the driving force in the task of building the new unitary polity. This new process 
results in a more academic approach to the preservation of classical architecture and 
monuments with the launch of serious management and study of antiquities. 

The interest in heritage and monuments predates the formation of the Italian 
State. A history of management of classical antiquities starts in the mid-fifteenth 
century with the discovery of underground riches in the city and hinterland of Rome 
controlled by the Papal States. Orti or gardens in private hands were sacked for stat- 
ues and classic artifacts. Those riches were collected and displayed in the Vatican 

9 Contestation from the Top 


and Capitoline museums or in private collections in Rome. Two centuries later, the 
discovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum was a crucial event, with the start of excava- 
tions under the auspices of Charles III Bourbon, King of Naples. The archaeological 
strategy at these sites consisted in the detachment of central motifs in murals and 
their display in the Naples museum. 

Contestation from the Top 

Fascism is the main political actor in this chapter. Fascism represents a case of con- 
testation mechanism emanating from a democratically elected government. Benito 
Mussolini won the elections in 1922 and, sensing the hesitation of the King to invite 
him to form a government, promoted the “March to Rome.” It was Mussolini’s first 
and successful attack on the established order. The context for such contestation 
was not entirely negative: Italy had emerged victorious from World War I and had 
been granted domination of the Istria Peninsula (and some islands in the Aegean 
Sea). Once in power, fascism would launch attacks in different phases against the 
stagnated yet nationally-oriented political establishment: it attacked the liberal, yet 
nationalistic, governments that seem to have lost steam, or as Adamson (1989:425) 
suggests, it never really made an impact in the making of the country. 

The Philosophies at the Birth of Fascism 

There were two contrasting new cultural waves or philosophies at the birth of fas- 
cism: Attualismo and Futurismo, blooming at the beginning of the twentieth century 
and intended to be an overarching, abrupt change in the way history was treated in 
the country. They had consequent impact in the realm of Italian cultural heritage. 
While their material impact on cultural heritage may be limited (the latter will rather 
thrive in art), their proposals will be put into practice by the establishment of the new 
fascist society starting in 1922 as they intend to challenge the traditional perspec- 
tives on the past. Their principles are essential for the valuation of heritage during 
the fascist era. The two philosophers at the origin of both currents, Giovanni Gentile 
and Filippo Marinetti, respectively, became central figures in the fascist government 
of Mussolini, as a new breed of active philosophers entrenched in the materialization 
of their ideas. 

Our understanding of the two of the introductory quotes, because of the intrica- 
cies of philosophical analysis, is uneven. There is really no difficulty to understand 
Marinetti’s aims and his appreciation of the academics dealing with Italy’s heritage 
in the second quote. However, once part of the government, he was hardly to be 
as radical as his thoughts suggest. On the contrary, the third quote that refers to 
the philosophical current of Actualism, as Gentile’s idealism is named, requires our 
recourse to the literature on the topic. Both lines of thought supported the new and 
popular political alternative of fascism. 


A. Higueras 


Claudio Fogu leads the research on the close relationship between Gentile’s thinking 
and the fascist political system. Fogu (2003: 198) suggests that “the Italian victory in 
the Great War had proven that all ‘history belongs to the present’ of consciousness 
and is therefore ‘entirely immanent in the act of its construction’.” Fogu says that 
Gentile called for a new political subject that would orient itself toward this actualist 
vision of historical action, representation, and consciousness. Fascism responded to 
that call organizing its vision of history around a basic actualist principle: history 
belongs to the present. 

Fogu (2006) underlines that it is a process in which fascism is a historic agent, 
supported by deeply rooted “Latin-Catholic rhetorical signification of presence that 
had sustained the development of Italian visual culture for centuries,” and that not 
only made history, but also made it present to mass consciousness and “appealed to 
masses and intellectuals” (Fogu 2006:17). 

In his particular take on the past, Mussolini and his exultation of the classical 
Roman heritage led to the grand aim of improving on the past. This improvement 
occurred not only in the material realm with new buildings that enhanced the past 
but that were clearly meant to surpass it; there was also an “imperial” sphere, 
in the physical re-creation of the new empire with conquests in the Balkans and 


The Manifesto Futurista was published in Italy by Filippo Marinetti in 1909. This 
document was extremely explicit in accusing the faults of a stagnant liberal society 
which had settled into the aims of its original Romantic ideas of nationalism and 
the idea of a unified country. It also was aimed at raising issues that, as in this 
case, related especially to the state of cultural heritage in Italy, or more precisely 
how the past is viewed and considered in a society. In this case the contestation 
wish was quite strong as it explicitly stated, and eventually Marinetti would lead his 
contestation from within the new government of Mussolini. 

Futurismo is the trend that condemns the wave of liberal thinking that had 
led culture and politics of the kingdom (conversi 2009). Fogu suggests that the 
“crisis of liberalism” was quintessentially cultural, and that the “new politics” of 
fascism dipped their roots in the multifaceted fabric of a modernist cultural front 
that had denounced the moralistic and optimistic view of associated evolutionary 
modernization (Fogu 2006:4). 

Evolution in the Management of Cultural Heritage 

Nationalist policies often use archaeological heritage to launch programs aimed at 
defining the origins of new nations, or establishing the foundations of new systems, 
or re-creating ancient times, with little care for the details of the changing processes 

9 Contestation from the Top 


since those “glorified” and emulated times. This was true in the liberal as well as 
the fascist periods under consideration here. 

As the new kingdom of Italy formed and Rome became its capital, there was a 
high interest in upgrading the status of classical monuments and integrating them as 
part of the new city. The Pope as the bishop and de facto mayor of the city had given 
little interest to the classical monuments in their original setting, ordering many 
haphazard improvements to the city. The Egyptian obelisks and marble bath tubs 
found during looting-like sprees in Roman villas and baths are set in the squares of 
Rome. All these ancient objects were subject to consecration under the crosses of the 
Christian church. Then there were the Napoleonic projects of the early nineteenth 
century aimed at improving spots of the city important to the Emperor, such as 
Piazza del Popolo and the area of Trajan’s column. 

First Phase: Liberal Period and the Integration 
of Past Landscapes 

A new chapter of the management of the heritage of Rome started shortly after 
the declaration of the city as the capital of Italy. The first ideas of managing her- 
itage in the new Italy started in the creation of an “official” space named Central 
Archaeological Area of Rome (CAAR). The CAAR is the expanse comprising the 
Roman Forum, the Imperial Fora, the Colosseum, the Circus Maximus, and a size- 
able buffer zone surrounding these monuments. At the time of the creation of the 
kingdom, most of the CAAR was hidden under medieval city blocks, by private gar- 
dens, as in the case of the Palatine, and under a thick soil deposit from centuries 
of abandonment. The preservation of this area with a high concentration of clas- 
sical monuments would contrast with the strong expansion of new neighborhoods 
for new living quarters, within the third-century city walls, or with the works of 
the embankment of the Tiber River, that allowed the discovery of a wide array of 
archaeological remains which would then start filling the new National museums. 
There was, overall, a subtle integration with the classical monuments, a balance that 
would only be changed with the building of the Vittoriano, the largest white marble 
monument in Rome, in 1900, to commemorate the King of Italy, located at one end 
of the CAAR, next to the Imperial Fora. 

Before the serious excavations of the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill 
started in the early twentieth century, the Piano di Sistematizzazione della Zona 
Monumentale Riservata di Roma (Management Plan for the Reserved Monumental 
Area of Rome) for CAAR was planned from 1 887 as an archaeological park enhanc- 
ing heritage preservation as well as recreational purposes in the heart of the city. 
While it does not include the Imperial Fora, which is densely built over (1 in 
Fig. 9.1), it included large expanses of green areas on the Circus Maximus (2 in 
Fig. 9.1) and the surroundings of the Baths of Caracalla (3 in Fig. 9.1). This Piano 
is not a Master Plan (or Piano Regolatore Generate, PRG ) strictly speaking. It is, 
rather, an important attempt to safeguard a potentially rich archaeological area. A 
large part of it, as within the area of the Imperial Fora, was covered by buildings con- 
structed over the ancient Roman walls serving as foundations and a considerable 


A. Higueras 

Fig. 9.1 The central archaeological area of Rome, as conceived by Fiorelli as an archaeo- 
logical park in 1887. 1 : Fori Imperiali; 2: Circus Maximus; 3 : Baths of Caracalla (Benevolo 

layer of soil deposition resulted from the abandonment of many of these areas 
through time. In other words, at this point in time there were few attempts to urban- 
ize the area; it became the historical center of the city around which were developed 
new quarters and avenues. 

There were quite a few PRGs in the twentieth century. A feature common to 
all the plans is that the large archaeological park, after the initial plan of 1887, 
will gradually lose its central status in the heritage management process. The plan 
of 1887 was utopian in that it failed to foresee the future development needs of 
Rome, namely the building of streets and avenues. So the following PRGs start 
viewing the area as an important crossroads in the expansion of the city with the 
building of wider avenues and the demolition of many blocks of the original city. 
This process had its major occurrence during the fascism period with the building of 
via delVImpero linking the Colosseum and Piazza Venezia, and hence joining two 
halves of the city. 

The PRG's plans were always shady when addressing the degree of intervention 
in the space of the CAAR. The tendency is that the 1887 plan is preserved only in its 
very core and the following plans contemplate improvements in its limiting areas, 
reducing the green areas and “buffer” zone to the monuments. The first large avenues 
built in the city tended to reach the boundaries of the archaeological area without 
crossing it. However, soon they would be impinging constantly on the heritage of 
the area. Overall, the CAAR is a very static but significant free space in the heart of 

9 Contestation from the Top 


Rome in the first phase. But it stands in such an important setting that this situation 
changed radically in the second phase. 

Second Phase: Fascist Remodeling of the Classical Landscapes 

A second phase in the project for managing the heritage in the CAAR area started 
soon after Mussolini became head of the government. The objective from 1923 on 
was to start a decade-long project that would transform the city, once again, into the 
capital of the newly “named” empire. This was achieved through great works that 
definitely destroyed the idea of the CAAR, taking, then, the shape of wide avenues, 
adequate for large parades, a classic feature of fascism. 

This is the period of the sventramenti or “gutting” of the city: the demolition of 
dozens of blocks of houses, churches, and buildings erected in the period from the 
thirteenth to eighteenth century. Thus was achieved the extension of the avenues 
of Rome to reach the CAAR, which became a crucial area for communications 
in the city. The main axis of Rome was to be via deH’Impero (today’s via dei 
Fori Imperiali), opened in 1933 after the removal of part of a hill (Fig. 9.2). This 
“destructive” spree also allowed the paving of streets surrounding the Colosseum 
(with the razing of a few Roman monuments and inhabited buildings). In the decades 
that followed, any changes to the initial status of this crucial artery were minimal 
given, first, the high importance of the avenue for fascist society and, second, the 
post- World War II economy of the city. However, on the positive side, the gutting 

Fig. 9.2 Removal of the Velia Hill for the construction of via dell’Impero 1932 (Archivio Storico 
Istituto Luce) 


A. Higueras 

of more than a dozen city blocks allowed the pursuit of more serious excavations, 
especially in the area of the Markets of Trajan and the Fora of Augustus and Nerva. 
These works little affected the ancient structures on this side of the CAAR, in con- 
trast to the remains surrounding the Colosseum. In their way, with the addition of 
the restoration of the Senate of Rome to its original interior features (removing 
the baroque decoration of the church that occupied it), these works allowed the 
integration of ancient remains into the city after centuries of being covered. These 
excavations occurred at both sides of via dei Fori Imperials, which still stands today 
over a wide tract, splitting in two the Imperial Fora area. The level of the new avenue 
still keeps the underground remains protected. No plans are in place to reduce the 
area of the fascist avenue to a more moderate width so as to pursue the excavations 
of the fora. 

By 1932, when fascism was well consolidated, Mussolini started his more contro- 
versial years of colonization and racial politics. Rome had made great strides in the 
excavations within the CAAR, such as on the Palatine hill and in the Roman Forum. 
The strategy of PRGs was then suspended and the development of the city relied 
on more haphazard but important works, all intent on “gutting” the city — creating 
wide, imposing avenues in a city that had none, such as the Via della Conciliazione , 
the avenue approaching the Vatican from the river bank, and the new fascist city 
of EUR (Esposizione Universale Roma, begun in 1935 by Mussolini), the epitome 
of fascist architecture that then would be reproduced in a smaller scale in the new 
towns founded in the empire, be it south of Rome in Sabaudia (Caprotti 2007) or 
in cities of the African colonies, such as Asmara in Eritrea. In the archaeological 
sphere, excavations in Rome itself as well as in the colonies (Munzi 2001) reflected 
the interest of Italy in classical Roman heritage. Strong Italian interest in excavation 
and restoration in Libya, for instance, is a trend that still continues today; Libya itself 
is not empathetic to Roman sites as part of the country’s Islamic cultural heritage. 

Fascism and the new policies toward enhancing the concept of a new empire 
rested on the display of the monuments of classical Rome along the stout and geo- 
metric lines of the new fascist buildings. In the capital of Rome the fascist architects 
had no qualms about creating a hand-to-hand coexistence, or rather, a side-by-side 
integration of buildings of both periods. That is the case of the awkward juxtaposi- 
tion of the mausoleum of Augustus surrounded by fascist-style buildings with the 
characteristic friezes and inscriptions. Mussolini removed the concert hall of Rome 
that used the funerary vault of the emperor. Unfortunately, at some point in the 
twentieth century the monument fell into disrepair. When Mussolini had the idea 
of making a new city, he created from scratch the EUR neighborhood, some 15 km 
south of the CAAR. 

While I have concentrated here on the urban changes introduced by fascism 
amidst the CAAR, the politics of the reviving a sense of Romanith (“romanness”; 
see Stone 1999; Visser 1992) is heavily supported by the opening of large museums 
that gathered a broad sample of the architectural achievements of classical Roman 
society. This situation contrasts with the high art/low didactics of the Vatican and 
Capitoline museums at the time. This is the case of the plaster-cast holdings of the 
Museo della Civilta Romana in the EUR which displays scale-size plaster casts of 

9 Contestation from the Top 


arches, gates, aqueducts, and other monuments from every region of the empire. The 
museum had mostly a didactic function in both periods of our analysis, but it added 
on a major role of propaganda to celebrate the 2,000 years of Augustus’ birth in 
1937, during Mussolini’s watch, not unlike the propaganda that promoted the rule 
of the same Augustus (see Arthurs 2007). 

Final Comments 

In this brief essay I have underlined the particular way the rise and establish- 
ment of fascism and its new approach to gauging the past correspond to a process 
of political contestation. This phenomenon, emanating from a solid power base, 
is contestation from an official establishment side. This process materializes in a 
more vigorous, hands-on intervention in the realm of classical Rome in contrast 
to policies that aimed at treating heritage in a romantic, less politically exploited 

The power base of fascism grew at a fast pace in its aim to grab political power, 
turning rapidly from a minority into a major player in Italian politics and taking 
power in 1922. Once in government, fascism thrived on changing the romantic and 
liberal ideals and moral structure of the existing kingdom of Italy, born a mere 
50 years earlier. Those ideals were the structured on the liberal political thinking 
of the nineteenth century and did not attempt to use the Roman past as a vehicle 
for the construction and empowerment of the new society. Fascism sought to renew 
the ideals of Italian society with a very different consideration and appropriation of 
the classical past. It aimed to improve the past, using classical Rome as a model to 
better the society proposed since the unification. That project ultimately failed as 
the new fascist empire shrank during World War II and fascism and the monarchy 
were abolished after 1945. 

In the realm of the management of cultural heritage and monuments, the dif- 
ferences between our two periods lie in the transition from a “pacific coexistence” 
toward an “active involvement” in the role of archeological heritage within civil 
society and daily life. In the fascist period excavations were accompanied by restora- 
tion and then were followed by impingement of the archeological zones, showing 
the involvement of politics in the new constructions of the city. 

This example of a government contesting the traditional perceptions and uses of 
the past is not unique to Italian fascism. However, the difference in Italy’s case is 
that fascist politics tweaked and improved on tendencies already existing, but that 
had had a small, secondary role in the political discourse and pragmatic decisions 
of the first government of the kingdom of Italy. 


1 . Oddly enough, and on a related note, I sense that current difficult times for cultural heritage in 
Italy are, in part, determined by the inexistence of those grander objectives of nationalist ideas 
in current policies. 


A. Higueras 


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Beiner, Ronald. 

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Chapter 10 

Touring the Slave Route: Inaccurate 
Authenticities in Benin, West Africa 

Timothy R. Landry 

[The Slave Route] is for everyone. Not just Africans or 
African-Americans . . . the Slave Route is a world 
heritage — anyone who wants to take the time can come 
here and learn about our history. 

(statement by Beninois tour guide, interviewed July 2008) 

Social Constructions of Memory 

French essayist Jean Amery is often quoted as saying, “No one can become what he 
cannot find in his memories” (1996:84). Indeed, people often find that their sense 
of being is connected to the people and events they recall from their individual and 
collective pasts. And the numerous, often political ways that memory and cultural 
heritage are performed on the social landscape can often lead to varying degrees of 
contestation between social actors. These somewhat messy social exchanges have 
occupied the careers of many scholars in fields such as anthropology, sociology, and 
psychology, to name a few. Whether we understand memory and its relationship 
to cultural heritage to be about shared collective experiences (Halbwachs 1992), 
embodied performances (Stoller 1995), or the products of habitual action (Bourdieu 
1977; Connerton 1989), it is tempting to invoke habitus (Bourdieu 1977) in an effort 
to explain the ways that collective memory retains its social efficacy over time and 
across generations. Nevertheless, habitus fails to provide us with the necessary tools 
to examine the meaning behind processes of creative and embodied remembering. 
Reacting against habitus as a sufficient model for exploring memory (see Farnell 
2000), I find it more useful to interpret processes of meaning-making, especially as 
it relates to memory and remembered performances, as embodied action. For me, 
memory, like many other aspects of culture, is best appreciated as a creative and 

T.R. Landry (El) 

Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801, USA 

H. Silverman (ed.), Contested Cultural Heritage, 

DOI 10.1007/978-l-4419-7305-4_10, © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 201 1 



T.R. Landry 

dynamically embodied phenomenon that allows for expressive, performative, and 
active rememberings. 

This perspective is aptly illustrated in the context of the “Black Atlantic.” As 
Gilroy (1993) has shown, people on both sides of the Atlantic actively remember the 
trans-Atlantic slave trade in many innovative ways. Across the former slave coast 
in West Africa, sites such as the Maison des Esclaves of Goree Island in Senegal, 
Elmina Castle in Ghana, and the Slave Route in Benin (Fig. 10.1) have drawn par- 
ticular attention from scholars interested in Africa’s slaving past, as well as from 
tour agencies that market tours designed for African American tourists who travel 
to Africa on a “pilgrimage” to explore their cultural heritage through “roots tourism” 
(see Bruner 2005a; Ebron 2002). 

Unlike Ghana and to a lesser extent Senegal, slave tourism to Benin is still in its 
infancy. This is partly because international tourists were discouraged from travel- 
ing to Benin under the rule (1972-1991) of the Marxist-Leninist dictator Mathew 
Kerekou. But due to popular discontent surrounding Kerekou’s military govern- 
ment, a national conference was established in February 1990, resulting in the 
formation of a democratic Beninois government. Kerekou peacefully transferred 

Fig. 10.1 “The Slave 
Route,” Ouidah, Benin. 
(Photo: Timothy R. Landry, 
December 2006) 

10 Touring the Slave Route 


the leadership of Benin to the new, democratically elected government in 1991. 
Under the leadership of President Nicephore Soglo, the new government made it 
their mission to heighten international attention paid to Benin. Government officials 
began creatively mobilizing and invoking the nation’s past in ways that appealed 
to the international community, including the tourism industry. Reflecting this shift 
in Beninois politics, the peoples of Benin began marketing their past as one of the 
largest ex-slaving ports in West Africa. 

The government anticipated that African Americans, especially, would be inter- 
ested in “returning home” to Africa so that they might explore their roots vis-a-vis 
“heritage tourism.” With international support, Benin began using the trans- Atlantic 
slave trade as its inspiration to implement a tourism campaign that promised to 
attract tourists with an interest in Benin’s slaving past. Since the birth of the Slave 
Route project in 1991, many collective memories that focused on Benin’s role in the 
trans- Atlantic slave trade have become important to the project’s success. In partic- 
ular, a systematic attempt was made to capitalize on the historical role played by 
Ouidah, formerly the largest slaving port in West Africa, in the Atlantic slave trade 
by placing monuments to the slave trade and its victims along the road from Ouidah 
to the beach where slaves were once forced onto ships bound for the Americas (Law 

In addition, to attract tourist monies to Benin, the government began developing 
strategies to attract international visitors having an interest in Vodun, a major indige- 
nous religion found in southern Benin (with versions known as “Vodou” in Haiti and 
“voodoo” in the Western imagination). Supported by an international awareness of 
“voodoo,” and following the success of Haiti’s nigritude movement that positioned 
Vodou as both a source of nationalism and an emerging marker of Haitian-ness for 
Haitians living both in Haiti and in the Haitian diaspora (Largey 2006), Beninois 
officials saw great potential for Vodun to serve as a catalyst for nationalism. Soglo 
and his government began working to de-criminalize the practice of Vodun, which 
had been heavily persecuted by the previous government in an effort to strip local 
religious leaders of their political power (Joharifard 2005). 

Since the development of the Slave Route, many Vodun leaders have become 
deeply involved in international tourism. Memories of the trans-Atlantic slave trade 
also have been robustly connected to the development of “National Vodun Day,” 
a national holiday now observed annually on January 10th to celebrate Benin’s 
indigenous religious diversity. Supporting these governmental ventures, each year 
the royal palace of Daagbo Hounon, the Supreme Chief of Vodun in Benin, has 
become actively involved. Through his involvement, and with the coming of inter- 
national tourists from around the world, we see multi-layered local and international 
participation, as well as a blurring of local categories, as contemporary Beninois 
“Vodun” is elided with and strongly connected to Benin’s slaving past. 

When considering complex places of remembering, such as Benin, it is impor- 
tant to understand that “remembering can use far more than the written word . . . 
it can rely on buildings, spaces, monuments, bodies, and patterns of representing 
self and others” (Birth 2006b: 176). Whereas Ghanaian tour groups and government 
officials have been able to market their past by appealing to African Americans who 


T.R. Landry 

wish to learn about the lived experiences of enslaved Africans at Elmina Castle, 
Benin’s emphasis of historical sites such as the former Portuguese fort and the fam- 
ily compound of Brazilian slave trader Francisco Felix de Souza constitutes a less 
marketable telling of the former lives of European buyers and African slave traders. 

However, despite the material focus on slave sellers and buyers, international 
tourists and local scripts tend to spotlight the lives of enslaved Africans. While walk- 
ing the path of the Slave Route, many tourists stop and pause as they contemplate 
their individual histories. Indeed, on several occasions I watched African American 
tourists on the beaches of Ouidah weeping as they considered that they might be 
standing on the same beach where some of their ancestors might have boarded a 
slave ship bound for the Americas. While a moving and justifiably profound expe- 
rience for African American tourists, history tells us that it is also unlikely, since 
slaves sold to foreign buyers from Ouidah went mainly to the province of Bahia 
in Brazil. In fact, “Brazil is thought to have taken around 60% of all slave exports 
from the Ouidah region . . . relatively few slaves from Ouidah went to the British 
Caribbean or North America” (Law 2008: 12). However, it is unlikely that an African 
American tourist will hear this from a local tour guide or tour agency. 

Instead, when African American tourists travel to Benin to learn about their 
ancestral roots, they will probably hear stories and accounts that, while histori- 
cally inaccurate, thrive in the memories created by local, national, and international 
agencies. Birth aptly reminds us that “any view of the past in the present cannot 
be limited by an assumption that the past only serves present needs or is only 
a creation of present interests” (2006b: 180). Such a revisionist model, he argues, 
“deprives the past of its potentially uncanny, disruptive, and contested presence” 
(Birth 2006b: 180). In an effort to avoid presentism — a model in which one sees 
the past as functioning only to meet the needs of the present — I maintain that 
one’s relationship with the past is dynamic. The past’s vitality became evident as 
I watched Beninois actively remember while creatively negotiating the ways in 
which they wish to mobilize their slaving past to meet the needs of broad local 
and international audiences. In so doing, Beninois actively mobilize their memories 
in ways that are both socially fruitful and disrupting. The ways in which Beninois 
and international tourists envision and consume the past have the potential to vary 
greatly as re-interpretations of past events simultaneously challenge and change the 

The Slave Route Project 

In 1991, in reaction to the impending 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival 
in the Americas, Haitian representatives proposed the development of the Slave 
Route Project. While under the guidance of a new democratically elected president, 
Nicephore Soglo, the people of Benin began working alongside Haiti, and with 
the help of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization 
(UNESCO), to develop the Slave Route. In 1993, the General Conference of 
UNESCO approved the project and agreed to partially fund the construction of 
tangible monuments in Benin that would clearly demarcate important “stations” 

10 Touring the Slave Route 


along the Slave Route (UNESCO 2005). Supported by the government of Benin 
and UNESCO, the Slave Route Project was officially launched in 1994. As a 
recent post-Communist country struggling to establish a new identity that was nev- 
ertheless rooted in the past, the development of the Slave Route Project and the 
legitimation of Vodun helped local people attract international tourists from around 
the globe. 

With tourism on the rise from international visitors who desired spiritual experi- 
ences, local interest in marketing Vodun grew, and the Slave Route project receded 
into the background (Araujo 2005). In an effort to save the Slave Route project 
while still marketing local religion, regional officials and event organizers in Benin 
decided to combine the Slave Route project with national strategies designed to 
attract tourists interested in Vodun. This merger subsequently led to the creation of 
National Vodun Day, which celebrates Benin’s indigenous religions while simulta- 
neously paying respect to the millions of Africans who died during the trans-Atlantic 
slave trade. A shift from commemoration to repentance (see Law 2008) is high- 
lighted annually on the morning of January 10th at the start of National Vodun 
Day, when His Majesty Daagbo Hounon, the Supreme Chief of Vodun in Benin, 
performs the ceremonial Walk of Repentance (Fig. 10.2). On this day, Beninois con- 
gregate on the beaches of Ouidah to celebrate the nation’s indigenous religions, and 
to make ceremonial retribution to the millions of Africa souls who were sold into 

Fig. 10.2 His majesty Daagbo Hounon Tomadjlehoukpon (center), the supreme chief of Vodun 
in Benin, participating in the walk of repentance on National Vodun Day, Ouidah, Benin. (Photo: 
Martine de Souza, January 2006, used with permission) 


T.R. Landry 

slavery by former Dahomean kings. The ceremonies are repeated annually, similarly 
to the ways they were performed for “Ouidah ‘92, The First International Festival of 
Vodun Arts and Culture” [Note 1], These efforts helped President Soglo increase the 
influx of tourist monies to Benin, especially to Ouidah. A growing number of expen- 
sive European restaurants and plush beach resort hotels are being built in Ouidah 
and the surrounding areas, attracting more and more tourists who wish to travel to 
Ouidah to experience Benin’s slaving past and/or rich local religious practices. 

Performing the Slave Route 

For the average visitor, the Slave Route of Ouidah officially begins at Singbome, 
the former residence of the infamous Portuguese slave trader Francisco “Chacha” 
Felix de Souza [Note 2], King Gezo, who reigned as king of Dahomey from 1818 
to 1858, thanked de Souza by making him his representative in Ouidah for help- 
ing Gezo orchestrate a successful coup d’etat against his brother. King Adandozan 
(ruled 1797-1818), that ended with Gezo forcibly taking the throne of Dahomey in 
1818. With de Souza as King Gezo’s viceroy (c. 1820-1840), de Souza met with 

Fig. 10.3 Wall mural inside the temple of Dagun across the street from Dantissa, Ouidah, Benin. 
When asked what the mural depicted I was told by the head Dagun priest that the painting showed 
Dagun in the form of a serpent resting on a pile of earth coming to Ouidah from Brazil via Francisco 
Felix de Souza, who is shown here paddling the boat. (Photo: Timothy R. Landry, July 2008) 

10 Touring the Slave Route 


Fig. 10.4 The principal 
priest of the vodun Dagun, 
Ouidah, Benin. (Photo: 
Timothy R. Landry, July 

European slave traders on behalf of the king and negotiated the buying of European 
goods and selling of African slaves. Drawing on their former glory, the historical 
value as well as the political and economic presence of the de Souza family is still 
evident in Ouidah today. Just outside the back gate of Francisco de Souza’s former 
residence and the current de Souza family compound stands a large tree, in a sacred 
site known locally as Dantissa. Today this paved street corner is used as a ceremo- 
nial center for the serpent spirit Dagun, the de Souza family’s personal spirit, which 
is said to have originated in Brazil and been brought to Ouidah by Francisco Felix 
de Souza himself (see Guran 2008) (Figs. 10.3 and 10.4). However, according to 
contemporary oral histories, this same space is also the site from which Francisco 
de Souza sold slaves to European buyers on behalf of the kingdom of Dahomey. 

Imagined as an auction block (Fig. 10.5), and labeled in French as “la place des 
encheres” (the place of auction), Dantissa was probably not an auction block in 
the classic sense. That is to say, the king’s representatives, such as de Souza, more 
than likely sold slaves for prearranged (not auctioned) prices. Ignoring this fact, tour 
guides often lead tourists to believe that African sellers auctioned off African slaves 
to European buyers at the southern entrance to the de Souza family compound. 


T.R. Landry 

Fig. 10.5 The “auction block” monument found outside the back entrance of Singbome, the de 
Souza family compound in Ouidah Benin. Note the four-story house in the background, which is 
the current residence of the current “Chacha,” the de Souza head of household. (Photo: Timothy 
R. Landry, December 2006) 

Pointing to this matter of history, historian Robin Law reminds us that slaves — 
at least in Africa — were never sold in open markets (i.e., auctions); instead, they 
were sold out of the homes of African slave merchants (Law 2004:132). The “auc- 
tion block” model that is presented in Ouidah is likely fashioned after American 
and Caribbean images. Because African American tourists are vividly familiar with 
grotesque images of slave auctions, “the auction block,” regardless of its histori- 
cal inaccuracy, has the capacity to generate strong emotional and visceral reactions 
from international tourists who travel to Benin to understand their pasts, thereby 
adding to the efficacy of the script that is generated by Benin’s Slave Route. Indeed, 
while not historically “authentic,” the Slave Route of Ouidah engages actively with 
authentic imaginings of the ways that Westerners, especially, believe or imagine the 
past to have been (Delyser 1999). 

After visiting the “auction block,” visitors continue their 3.5-km walk down a 
dusty rural road that eventually leads to the beach. In addition to the major stops 
along the way that dominate the public narrative, small statues that were erected 
for Ouidah ‘92 to commemorate the former kings of Dahomey and other important 
figures (such as Amazonian warriors [Note 3] and Vodun spirits) dot the landscape 
on the way to the beach. 

10 Touring the Slave Route 


Fig. 10.6 The Tree of 
Forgetting, Ouidah, Benin. 
Sculpture by Beninois artist, 
Dominique Kouas. (Photo: 
Timothy R. Landry, 
December 2006) 

After passing two such sculptures, visitors find themselves at the next major 
stop — the Tree of Forgetting (Fig. 10.6). While historians have been unable to 
support local claims (Law 2004; Rush 2001; Singleton 1999), Beninois people 
adamantly believe the Tree of Forgetting is the former resting place of a sacred tree 
that was erected by King Agadja of Abomey (ruled 1708-1732). As told by local 
tour guides, this tree was the first of two major ceremonial centers where enslaved 
Africans stopped as they made their way from the “auction block” to the beach 
where they eventually boarded French and Portuguese slave ships bound for the 
“New World.” Local people believe that millions of people — chained together — 
walked around the Tree of Forgetting (nine times for men and seven times for 
women) to ensure that their spirits would forget their real identities and the atrocities 
that were done to them by “their own people,” thus making sure that their spirits 
would not seek retribution from the African kings in the afterlife. Although it is dra- 
matic, this story is unsubstantiated, as scholars are unable to find historical evidence 
of the existence of a Tree of Forgetting prior to the creation of the Slave Route in 
1993 (see Law 2004). 

Halfway to the beach, in the village of Zoungbodji, the script that is produced 
by the Slave Route takes a notable turn, shifting away from Africa’s role in the 


T.R. Landry 

trans-Atlantic slave trade and toward a more common narrative that focuses on 
the lived experience of African slaves. Zoungbodji houses three important stops 
in Benin’s Slave Route. The first of these places is the alleged former resting place 
of Zomai, one of de Souza’s slave confinement barracks, also known as a barra- 
coon (Fig. 10.7). Today, tour guides tell visitors that slaves were ushered into the 
dark enclosure where they waited until they were finally marched to the beach and 
loaded onto waiting slave ships. While historic records support the existence of pri- 
vate slave holdings around Ouidah, the Zomai quarter in Ouidah proper is probably 
“the location of de Souza’s stores of gunpowder” (Law 2004:137), and the place 
known as Zomai in the village of Zoungbodji is probably the product of creative 
imaginings, since “the location of a barracoon in Zoungbodji is not corroborated in 
any contemporary source” (Law 2004:137). Indeed, Law has suggested that the oral 
histories that surround Zomai today have “been embellished in the recent quest for 
‘sites of memory’ connected to the slave trade” (2004:137). 

Along with Zomai, the village of Zoungbodji also houses the Mass Grave 
Memorial, where those Africans who died while waiting to board European slave 
ships were allegedly buried (Fig. 10.8). As art historian Dana Rush explains, “[T]he 
monument is constructed upon what is believed to be the ancient common grave 

Fig. 10.7 Sculpture that 
marks what has come to be 
known as the Zomai 
Enclosure in Zoungbodji. 
Benin. The sculpture by 
Beninois artist, Dominique 
Kouas, depicts several faces 
bearing Fon (two on each 
cheek, temples, and forehead) 
and Yoruba (three on each 
cheek) scarification marks 
indicating their ethnic 
membership, highlighting the 
fact that many different ethnic 
groups were affected by the 
slave trade. (Photo: Timothy 
R. Landry, December 2006) 

10 Touring the Slave Route 


Fig. 10.8 The mass grave 
mosaic in Zoungobodji, 
Benin, by Beninois artist, 
Cyprien Tokoudagba. The 
mosaic depicts African 
peoples, chained at the neck, 
walking together as they 
presumably head for ships 
bound for the New World. 
(Photo: Timothy R. Landry, 
December 2006) 

for slaves who died in the Zomai Enclosure” (2001:43). Marked by a large mosaic 
depicting bloodied images of African slaves chained together boarding ships bound 
for the Americas, the monument provides visitors with a tangible place to honor 
the dead in personally appropriate ways. As with Zomai, there is no historical evi- 
dence to suggest that this is in fact a burial site. Rush writes that “[t]here have been 
no archaeological excavations to prove or disprove” that the monument serves as a 
grave marker for hundreds, if not thousands, of slaves who may have died while 
being housed in the Zomai enclosure. Although possibly not historically “accu- 
rate,” both the Zomai enclosure and the mass grave marker are supported by what 
one may expect — or imagine — to find in a site designed to remember Africa’s slav- 
ing past while also attempting to generate the symbolic capital necessary from the 
international community, most notably the descendants of African slaves, to ask 
for forgiveness for past atrocities. Lacking the historic slave castles of Ghana (see 
Bruner 1996), the designers of the Slave Route undoubtedly have used both his- 
torical value and creative license to create spaces for international tourists that will 
potentially invoke feelings of compassion, empathy, and forgiveness. 

Nestled in the village of Zoungbodji, the Tree of Return (Fig. 10.9) marks the 
halfway point from Ouidah to the beach. However, unlike the Tree of Forgetting, 


T.R. Landry 

Fig. 10.9 The Tree of Return, Zoungbodji, Benin. The tree in this photo is reported to be the actual 
tree planted in the nineteenth century by King Agadja of Dahomey. (Photo: Timothy R. Landry, 
December 2006) 

the tree that stands in Zougbodji is said to be the same tree that was planted by 
King Agadja. The Tree of Return is marked by a cement sculpture by Beninois 
artist Cyprien Tokoudagba that depicts the forest spirit Aziza. As told by local tour 
guides, enslaved Africans — while chained together — would walk around this tree 
three times to make certain that their spirits would return to Africa after death. 
Unable to retaliate for wrongs done to them, thanks in part to the ritual potency 
of the Tree of Forgetting, in a contradictory yet evocative gesture, their spirits are 
guaranteed safe passage back to their homeland because of the Tree of Return. 

10 Touring the Slave Route 


While the Tree of Return was probably not used ceremoniously by local officials 
to ensure the spiritual return of Africans who died as a result of the trans-Atlantic 
slave trade, the tree “is recorded in contemporary accounts, under the alternative 
name of ‘The Captain’s Tree’ ... as the place where arriving European slave-traders 
were met by the . . . local authorities of Ouidah” (Law 2004:153). Interestingly, the 
Tree of Return in its former incarnation as L’Arbre des Capitaines (The Captain’s 
Tree) has a great deal of documented historical significance as a rendezvous point 
for African sellers and European buyers of African slaves. This history, however, 
is not the one told by local tour guides. Nevertheless, while logistically impossible 
and historically unproven (see Law 2004; Rush 2001), the story told to tourists pro- 
vides them (especially African Americans) with exaggerated yet palatable images 
of Benin’s involvement in its slaving past. 

After visiting the village of Zoungbodji, visitors continue the last half of their 
long walk to the beach. After walking for nearly an hour, one can finally see the 
Door of No Return (Fig. 10.10) in the distance, emerging from the horizon on 
Benin’s sandy shoreline. Bearing UNESCO’s seal, the Door of No Return, designed 
and built by Beninois artist Fortune Bandeira, is the only official monument associ- 
ated with the Slave Route Project as established by UNESCO and the government of 
Benin. Symbolic of the actual space where millions of Africans boarded European 

Fig. 10.10 The Door of No Return, Ouidah, Benin. Designed and decorated by Fortuna Banderia. 
The door of no return remains the only official monument of the Slave Route. (Photo: Timothy R. 
Landry, July 2008) 


T.R. Landry 

ships, never to return to Africa, this impressive monument has become an icon 
for Benin’s tourism industry and is rapidly becoming a dominant symbol, invoked 
by people all over the country as a mark of national pride. Each year on January 
10th the Door of No Return becomes the central backdrop for National Vodun Day 
(Figs. 10.1 1 and 10.12), as thousands of Beninois and international tourists join to 
congregate at the beach to pay their respect to local spirits and to the millions of 
people who died during the Atlantic slave trade. 

In December 2006, 1 walked Ouidah’s Slave Route for the first time with a group 
of American university students. Our tour guide reminded us that the road on which 
we were walking was the same road that millions of enslaved Africans followed 
as they made their way to the beach, where they eventually boarded French and 
Portuguese slave ships bound for the “New World.” Perhaps out of some sort of 
reverence, I felt compelled to walk the sandy road barefooted. With each step, our 
tour guide told stories of the past — horrific stories of torture and death. The air was 
almost tangible with pain as we all contemplated our own personal histories. My 
family’s identity as former slave owners in the American south raced to the forefront 
of my memory as my personal relationship with Benin’s slaving past loomed heavy 
on my mind. I felt a sense of guilt that grew as my awareness converged with my 
family’s history. Another student in our group, an African American woman, also 
became overwhelmed at times, albeit for different reasons. On several occasions she 

Fig. 10.11 National Vodun Day, Ouidah, Benin. Note the door of no return, which serves as the 
backdrop for the festivities of National Vodun Day each year on January 10th. (Photo: Timothy R. 
Landry, January 2007) 

10 Touring the Slave Route 


Fig. 10.12 National Vodun Day celebration along the Slave Route in Ouidah, Benin, as local 
people make their way down the dusty road to the beach. (Photo: Martine de Souza, January 2007, 
used with permission) 

stopped to “breathe it all in” and stand on the soil where, she said, her “ancestors 
may have once stood.” 

During that hist visit to Benin I wanted to experience the Slave Route with as 
few academic biases as possible. Therefore, I made a conscious decision not to 
read any scholarship about the Slave Route prior to the trip. While walking from 
the site described as the auction block to the beach, our tour guide told many sto- 
ries and fielded many questions for other visitors that provided us with emotional 
rememberings of the past. The experience was moving and generated feelings of 
sadness, guilt, and anger, sometimes all at the same time. After walking the Slave 
Route for over 2 h and while talking with other American visitors, it became clear 
to me that the script provided by our Beninois tour guide, coupled with the ter- 
rain that was marked by several purposefully constructed monuments, successfully 
created a space that felt “authentic.” The experience created a type of authenticity 
that was not measurable by a fact-checker or a history book. Rather, for many of 
the visitors (including myself), the “authenticity” of the Slave Route was generated 
through dynamically embodied social action (see Varela 2004), including multi- 
sensorial social experiences that operated alongside of, and in conjunction with, our 
preconceived imaginings of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. 


T.R. Landry 

Zoungbodji — Contested Heritage in Local Spaces 

When I experienced the Slave Route for the first time in 2006, the village of 
Zoungbodji had a profound effect on me. As I have already mentioned, the village 
is home to Zomai, the alleged former resting place of one of de Souza’s barracoons; 
the Tree of Return, which newly enslaved Africans are said to have circumambu- 
lated three times to ensure their spirit’s eventual return to Africa; and the Mass 
Grave Memorial, where hundreds if not thousands of Africans who died while in 
Zomai purportedly were buried. For me, as for many of the visitors with whom I 
spoke, the village of Zoungbodji was the Slave Route’s pulsating heart. Flousing 
Zomai and the Mass Grave, Zoungbodji provided many international visitors with 
the emotional experience they were seeking. 

The Mass Grave Memorial especially generates a defined air of reverence. 
Demarcated by a cement wall, and protected by a chained gate, the Memorial is 
protected purposefully by local villagers. Before stepping past the gate, visitors are 
asked to remove their shoes. As is customary in many parts of Benin, removing 
one’s shoes shows respect and honor to important people and spirits. In this case, 
respect is given to the souls of those who died as a result of the trans- Atlantic slave 
trade, as well as to spirits who animate and elevate the Mass Grave Memorial to a 
space of profound significance for both local people and international visitors. 

Echoing the symbolic potency of removing one’s shoes, visitors are also asked 
by the tour guides to “keep silent” as they reflect on the memorial’s significance to 
local and international peoples alike. As I walked around the memorial, I noticed 
that other visitors — most of whom were American — were leaving small tokens of 
their respect behind. While most people left offerings of money at the base of the 
memorial, I noticed that others had left letters; one African American woman left 
an article of clothing. Some people walked around in silence; others talked to the 
memorial as if it were a person or perhaps even a spirit; still others stood or knelt 
in contemplative tears. Marked with a cement wall and empowered by the removal 
of shoes and silence, the Mass Grave Memorial has become a “sacred space” where 
visitors are able to “pay their respects” to the millions of people who lost their lives 
as a direct result of the trans-Atlantic slave trade (e.g., Sturken 2004; Zertal 2000). 

My subsequent visit to the Mass Grave Memorial in 2008 was quite different. As 
I did in 2006, 1 had traveled to Benin the second time to examine the relationships 
that exist between international tourism and local religious ideology. This second 
time, however, I came informed by the literature I had avoided in 2006 and also I was 
able to travel the Slave Route with a local tour guide who acted as a docent for three 
separate tour groups that were visiting from the USA. The first group was scheduled 
to arrive about a week after my landing in Ouidah. I was told about their arrival and 
invited to join them as they traveled to various “tourist sites” around the city of 
Ouidah. Upon their arrival in Ouidah, the tour guide, whom I will call “Annette,” 
took the group of 15 to the former site of Ouidah’s “auction block” and then to the 
village of Zoungbodji. Annette stood on the road that led to the village and told 
the tourists about Zomai, the Tree of Return, and the Mass Grave Monument. All 
the stories were the same as what I had heard her tell many times before — but this 

10 Touring the Slave Route 


time, the tour group did not enter the village. I was surprised that Annette avoided 
the village completely because many visitors with whom 1 had spoken in the past 
had found their experiences at Zoungbodji to be one of the most memorable. After 
finishing our day with the tour group, Annette thanked the tour group and wished 
them a safe and pleasant stay while they were visiting Benin. 

Once back at her home, I asked Annette, “Why didn’t you take the tourists into 
Zoungbodji? I’m sure they would have loved to have seen those monuments.” 

She simply responded with a shrug, “Well, I couldn’t.” 

“Why?” I pushed." 

She replied, “The visits used to be okay, as you know. Back in 1993 there used 
to be a guide from the village — I don’t know what happened. But when tourists 
came, they gave him money, you know, a tip. Then people started getting jealous 
and they didn’t want him to be the guide any more because they felt he was making 
too much money. Since then, there isn’t a guide in the village any more, except us, 
the guides who go there to do our tours. The problem is: The villagers still want 
money. Tourists will say, ‘Make tickets so we can buy them!’ But no one is doing 
that. The problem is, who do you give the money to? I can’t remember the year, but 
I brought tourists there and the villagers were very angry. They even slapped one 
of the tourists because they wanted to seize his camera. They pretended that they 

wanted money because he took a picture, but that wasn’t the reason They told 

me they wanted money because I am making money off their heritage .” 

Past Events and Present Disruptions 

Like so many local tour guides, Annette is becoming discouraged because, as she 
said, “I love sharing the history . . . but I can’t show the tourists everything any more. 
It’s too dangerous for me to tell the entire story. It’s frustrating. I don’t want to just 
tell people about our history, I want to show them.” 

Annette’s dissatisfaction with the way “things have to be” was also expressed by 
an African American female tourist in her mid-50 s who said, “I spent thousands of 
dollars to travel to Benin and I can’t see what I came here to see? You’ve got to be 
kidding me!” Annette could only apologize and placate the woman by stressing her 
responsibility to everyone’s safety. Of course, Annette later confided to me that she 
understood why the woman was angry and conceded that if she were in her position, 
she would have felt the same way. 

As tour guides such as Annette continue to work with tourists in countries such 
as Benin, where the per capita income is around $1,500 per year, tourist monies — in 
the form of tips — can make a huge difference in the everyday lives of local peoples. 
Annette asserts that her proficiency in English, coupled with her genuine interest in 
the history of “her people,” gives her the “power” to continue doing her job regard- 
less of the many difficulties that arise along the way. However, few residents of 
Ouidah speak English, nor are many educated in local history or trained to be a 
tour guide by local agencies. Yet people from varying backgrounds in Benin are 
hoping to profit (either economically or socially) from international tourism. The 


T.R. Landry 

overwhelming interest in international tourism and tourist monies begs the ques- 
tion: How does one determine who is allowed to profit from tourist capital in social 
spaces such as Zoungbodji that are laden with a great number of social complexities 
that range from questions of heritage “ownership” to local constructions of enti- 
tlement? These are not easy questions to address; in Benin, local city government 
and other officials are negotiating with village elders as they search for an amicable 

In Benin as in other parts of the world, local peoples have long been disem- 
powered by international and local governments while also serving as the primary 
stewards of cultural heritage. In the case of Benin, where local officials are begin- 
ning to work with local villagers and community leaders to ensure inclusive 
resolutions to heritage issues, I believe that local authorities must work with their 
communities to develop solutions that meet both the social and economic needs 
of the residents. However, to make these conversations fruitful in Zoungbodji, 
where villagers are coping with an ever-increasing number of international tourists, 
local questions of “heritage ownership,” such as those directed to Annette by local 
villages, must be addressed. What makes these questions exceedingly important, 
especially in the case of the Slave Route, is their sheer complexity. Who can 
say they “own” the heritage of the Slave Route? There are many stakeholders — 
including the government of Benin, local Beninois (including the descendants of 
slave traders), African Americans, and, of course, the international community, as 
Ouidah positions itself to be included as a UNESCO-sanctioned “world heritage” 
site [Note 4], 

In November 1994, the 45 participants at a conference on “authenticity” held 
in Nara, Japan, authored “The Nara Document on Authenticity.” Supported by 
UNESCO, the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration 
of Cultural Property (ICCROM) and the International Council on Monuments and 
Sites (ICOMOS), the authors of the Nara Document suggest that “[responsibility 
for cultural heritage and management of it belongs, in the first place, to the cultural 
community that has generated it, and subsequently to that which cares for it.” In the 
case of the Slave Route (as with many other communities looking to market their 
“cultural heritage”), the obvious question is, which “cultural community” should be 
seen as its generator? With many stakeholders living on both sides of the Atlantic, 
it is clear that there is no single vested community. As with so many other her- 
itage sites, the Slave Route has drawn significant attention from people around the 
globe — all of whom claim a degree of “ownership” over the values expressed in the 
Slave Route. 

The Ename Charter for the Interpretation of Cultural Heritage Sites (2005) right- 
fully complicates the issue of heritage “ownership” for local and international 
officials whose aim it is to consider all stakeholders involved in the Slave Route 
on both sides of the Atlantic by addressing issues of multivocal interpretations. In 
fact, the authors of the Ename Charter explicitly argue that “the traditional rights, 
responsibilities, and interests of the host community , property owners, and asso- 
ciated communities should be respected” (emphasis mine). Following this charter, 
allowing for, and even encouraging, multiple stakeholders from both Africa and the 

10 Touring the Slave Route 


African Americas will help to position Ouidah firmly on the international stage as it 
is considered for “world heritage” status. 

Inaccurate, Maybe. Authentic, Definitely 

After considering the inclusion of all stakeholders, and tending to the needs and 
desires of the various local communities involved, questions of “authenticity” still 
remain. The authors of the Ename Charter acknowledge that “cultural heritage sites 
can be contentious and should acknowledge conflicting perspectives.” However, 
they also suggest that “interpretation should be based on a well-researched, multidis- 
ciplinary study of the site and its surroundings.” What should local and international 
communities do when these “well-researched” studies (such as Law 2004) find 
that much of the script produced for a given site such as the Slave Route is 
based on historically unsupported interpretations provided by institutions such as 

Thinking about “authenticity” and its relationship to the Slave Route of Ouidah, 
one day in July 2008, I was talking to Jean, a Beninois friend, as we walked to 
the beach from Ouidah to buy coconuts. Although we were not actively partici- 
pating in the Slave Route, we happened to be traversing the same physical path. We 
passed all the monuments, briefly greeted tourists, and walked under the Door of No 
Return. On the way back, each carrying several coconuts that we were going to use 
to prepare dinner, we overheard a local tour guide talking to a group of American 
tourists about the Tree of Forgetting. Skeptical about the historical accuracy of the 
narratives that are maintained and produced by the Slave Route, I asked Jean, “Can 
you believe that people really think that Africans stopped at that very spot to per- 
form a ceremony that’s logistically impossible?” [Note 5], He looked at me and 
said, “Impossible? What do you mean? It happened. It really happened.” While sur- 
prised by his assertion, my interest was piqued. MacCannell (1999:93) has argued 
that “authenticity itself moves to inhabit mystification” and, indeed, many people on 
both sides of the Atlantic, including Jean, a 21-year-old Beninois university student, 
believe the script — complete with its historical inaccuracies — which is repeatedly 
re-established and re-affirmed by the Slave Route. 

How does one explain authenticity when the value of “the authentic” is con- 
tested? As I have demonstrated, historians have argued that some of the “facts” 
presented on the Slave Route are either invented fantasies or “imaginative recon- 
struction^]” (Law 2008:21). However, many local residents unequivocally believe 
them to be “authentic.” In reference to Appadurai’s now seminal work, The Social 
Life of Things (1986), Bruner points out that “authenticity today is becoming a mat- 
ter of the politics of connoisseurship, of the political economy of taste . . . [and] 
a matter of power” (2005a: 163). I would add that a claim to authenticity is often 
deeply intertwined with Bourdieuian notions of distinction (Bourdieu 1979). The 
power of social distinction, ownership, or, in the case of heritage sites, stewardship 
of the “authentic” has the potential to give people important access to a site’s social, 
economic, political, and symbolic capital. 


T.R. Landry 

Attending to the many complexities that surround the question of authenticity, 
anthropologist Edward Bruner has provided us with several ways of examin- 
ing authenticity that offer insight into the ways we should approach a study 
focused on discourses of authenticity that may be created and maintained vis- 
a-vis sites such as the Slave Route of Ouidah. According to Bruner, there are 
four meanings for authenticity: verisimilitude, genuineness, originality, and author- 
ity (2005a: 151). In the case of the Slave Route, we can use three of Bruner’s 
categories — verisimilitude, originality, and authority — as heuristic devices that will 
enable us to think less rigidly about experiences or places that some may deem 


Before people even begin packing a suitcase, they begin their trips with precon- 
ceived ideas of what they will experience. As tourists, they have undoubtedly been 
influenced by many factors, including images of their destination spot as purveyed 
in mass media. In the case of the Slave Route, Americans encounter Benin’s slav- 
ing past with pre-formed images that have been partially constructed by childhood 
textbooks, movies, public discourse, and works of art. Accordingly, most tourists 
“know” what to expect. And as long as their experiences match those expecta- 
tions, as long as “Africa” and their predetermined ideas of what slavery in Africa 
was like match their imaginations, visitors are likely to see the Slave Route as 
“authentic” — regardless of the historical inaccuracies. 

When considering the “authentic” value of the Slave Route, it is important to 
keep in mind that the Slave Route was designed by UNESCO and the government 
of Benin to fit well into global imaginings of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. People 
expect to experience Benin’s slaving past in ways that align with their imagina- 
tions and preconceptions. Thanks in part to scientific authority and by extension 
the power of “observation,” the West has long privileged visual perception over our 
other senses when determining “objectively” what is real and what is imagined (see 
Ingold 2000; Landry 2008; Stoller 1989). Because Benin lacks impressive mon- 
uments relevant to the trans-Atlantic slave trade such as Elmina Castle found in 
Ghana, the local government has worked closely with UNESCO and local artists to 
erect visual representations such as sculptures and placards that represent points of 
interest in Benin’s slaving past. These images have given tourists a point of visual 
reference to experience places such as the auction block that either no longer exist 
or may have never existed in Benin. 

Regardless of the historical inaccuracy of many of Benin’s slave monuments, 
local tour guides actively present them as real representation and remembering of 
the past. Following in the success of Senegal (Goree Island) and Ghana (Elmina 
Castle), the government of Benin and UNESCO have together made a calculated 
decision to develop the Slave Route as a tourist site that focuses on the victims of 
the slave trade — instead of on the vivid rememberings of the lives of Africa’s slave 
traders that dramatically punctuate Benin social and religious landscapes. While 

10 Touring the Slave Route 


the Slave Route is, in some instances, historically inaccurate, it has nevertheless 
become “real” to those people, especially to Africans and African Americans, who 
embody the realities of the Atlantic slave trade everyday. On one hand, scholars 
have shown that a site’s authenticity is often embedded in its ability to be “credible 
and convincing” — in the words of Bruner, verisimilitudinous (Bruner 2005a: 149; 
Delyser 1999). Because the Slave Route plays into salient global imaginings of what 
people think the trans-Atlantic slave trade was like, its credibility and ability to 
convince are bolstered not by history but by rich and vivid imaginations. 


At first glance, especially given its historical inaccuracies, one may be tempted to 
reject the possibility of “originality” in the Slave Route. People who are able to 
mobilize the proverbial “original” are able to enjoy the social capital it provides. 
Of course an object or space, whatever it may be, is not inherently better than a 
copy. But Western cultural actors in particular give “the original” a great deal of 
social power. Middle-class and elite adventurers travel long distances, and at great 
expense, to see the “real” Mona Lisa or a “real” Monet, for example. For many peo- 
ple, a photo or a near-as-possible copy just is not enough. However, the copy (or the 
inauthentic) does not exist in vain. As Geertz (1986) has pointed out, copies serve 
to authenticate the original, thereby giving it greater value. For many people, “the 
original” seems to pulsate with what Walter Benjamin (2008) may have called an 
“aura” or perhaps a magical energy — a mana-like substance that, while intangible, 
is critical to the tourist experience (Mauss 2001). 

As the Slave Route is described by some as a “fiction” (Araujo 2005), and cri- 
tiqued by scholars for its historical inaccuracies (Law 2004; Rush 2001), it may be 
difficult to imagine why so many people — locals and internationals alike — believe 
the Slave Route to be “authentic.” Yet a close anthropological reading of the “text” 
of the tourist experience can provide important clues to how international visitors 
understand their experiences in Benin within the framework of “authenticity.” Let 
us consider some discursive strategies. 

While in Ouidah I heard several tour guides and countless local residents describe 
the Tree of Return as “the actual tree that was planted by King Agadja.” As visitors 
stand in the presence of this very large tree, many of them comment on its grand size. 
The size alone seems to provide international tourists with sufficient “evidence” 
to adequately suggest that the tree is indeed over 200 years old. Seeing the tree 
as an “original” — as the tree that was circumambulated by millions of enslaved 
Africans performing a ceremony to ensure their spirit’s return to Africa — becomes 
an effortless and convincing exercise in visualization. 

Around the Tree of Return, English-speaking tour guides are commonly heard 
using phrases such as “the actual tree” or “the very place” with their American 
visitors. In so doing, tour guides are able to emphasize notions of “the original,” 
thus adding to the Slave Route’s “authentic” value. The site’s authenticity is further 


T.R. Landry 

heightened by values that are seemingly invariable. While tour guides can forget to 
emphasize “the original,” or grow bored as they repeat the same tired descriptions 
day after day — thereby diminishing their role in the creation of an authentic expe- 
rience for tourists — they can never reduce the symbolic capital embodied by Africa 
itself. Africa’s quality as the quintessential “original” is further supported by tour 
guides as they remind visitors — often multiple times — that they are traversing the 
“same path" and walking on the “same soil” that enslaved Africans traveled on a 
little more than 200 years ago. For many tourists, especially African Americans, 
Africa is considered a “homeland.” Referring often to their trip to Africa as going 
“home” or traveling to the “motherland,” their time in Africa is understood as a 
pilgrimage (Bruner 2005a; Ebron 2002) rather than a simple vacation, as Africa 
itself becomes, in their imaginations, the ultimate “original.” Through a careful and 
strategic use of language coupled with images of and embodied reactions to “the 
original,” the Slave Route’s claims to “authenticity” are strengthened. 


The ability to claim “originality” and transform Ouidah into a space that reflects 
a visitor’s preconceived imagined realities is further supported and sustained by 
UNESCO’s “persona” as an authoritative agency. Bruner (2005a) has accurately 
speculated that a site’s authenticity may be heightened by virtue of authority. 
When considering authority and thinking about the relationships that exist between 
“authenticity” and cultural heritage, it is helpful to reflect on UNESCO’s sym- 
bolic capital in that arena. Because of its position as an international agency that 
is well positioned on the global stage as a source of cultural authority interested in 
questions of authenticity, interpretation, and representation, UNESCO — seen as a 
source of all things “credible” and “truthful” — has the necessary symbolic capital 
to present, often without question from the laity, certain “truths” about a given site 
(Bourdieu 1979). In considering these issues, Bruner asks, “[W]ho has the author- 
ity to decide which version of history will be accepted as the correct or authentic 
one?” (2005b: 151). By its very nature, authority is rarely given to the downtrodden 
or the subaltern. Authority, which is often accorded by virtue of social power and 
dominance, has the capacity to define what society sees as “true” (Foucault 1980, 
1995). While scholars of Benin have critiqued the historical accuracy of Ouidah’s 
Slave Route, they do not carry the same social capital as UNESCO or the govern- 
ment of Benin. Simply put, UNESCO and the local government carry the necessary 
symbolic capital — “a reputation for competence and an image of respectability and 
honourability” (Bourdieu 1984:291) — that enables them to mobilize the past and 
create and promote the narrative of their choosing. 

While the last “station” on the Slave Route — The Door of No Return — is the 
only official monument of the Slave Route and the only one that bears UNESCO’s 
seal, several tour guides in Ouidah often tell tourists about UNESCO’s involvement 
in the Slave Route from the beginning of the tour. For its part, UNESCO is able to 
position itself as an agent of authenticity because it wraps itself in the language of 

10 Touring the Slave Route 


science. On its official website for the international Slave Route project, UNESCO 
claims to be “[d ] rawing on the expertise of an International Scientific Committee”; it 
strives to support “scientific research through a network of international institutions 
and specialists” (UNESCO 2005). At the same time, drawing on a wide range of 
people from varying backgrounds and with a multitude of perspectives, UNESCO 
is beginning to support multiple meanings, explanations, and values (see ICOMOS’ 
Ename Charter of 2005). 

While the inclusion of multiple interpretations of the past make a site’s script 
more “authentic,” many Westerners think of authenticity as an objective concept, 
one that is somehow measurable and indisputable. To many people, including 
tourists, an artifact or a site either exudes the “aura” of realness or it does not. 
UNESCO’s authoritative efficacy is directly related to its overt support for “sci- 
entific research” and its continuous use of scientific language in public discourse 
and educational materials. Because of UNESCO’s firm position in the realm of sci- 
entific ventures and truth-finding, Beninois are able to use UNESCO’s claims to 
authority to present their saleable rendition of the past as unequivocally “true.” 
Just as our collective imaginations affect the way we preview and later inter- 
nalize our traveling experiences as authentic, our imaginations also affect the 
ways we understand “science.” And UNESCO, perhaps unintentionally, is able 
to profit from the West’s pre-imagined notion of science as a venture in “Truth”- 

Concluding Remarks 

When one thinks about the various qualities that make cultural heritage “authentic,” 
one may be compelled to believe that for something to be authentic it must be posi- 
tioned in historical Truth. However, as I have shown in this chapter, authenticity is 
not dependant on accuracy. Instead, authenticity, as it relates to cultural heritage, 
is measured and experienced through embodied action and performance while also 
being couched in the politics of capital (i.e., symbolic, political, or economic) and 
the creative processes of remembering. Just as ritual has the capacity to make reli- 
gion “really real” for its adherents, sustained symbolic and political capital work 
to make heritage such as the Slave Route “really authentic” for a wide variety of 
stakeholders (see Geertz 1973). 

Calculated decisions about authentic representation are made as managers of a 
variety of sites across the west coast of Africa consider the many stakeholders on 
both sides of the Atlantic. In both Ghana and Benin, the thematic influence of Goree 
Island off the coast of Senegal is undeniable — despite the controversy surrounding 
its historic “authenticity,” Goree is touted as “the most powerful visual image of the 
slave trade” (Law 2008:1 1). The imagery of Goree continues to contribute greatly 
to the ways we imagine the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Goree’s Porte du Non-Retour 
has been successfully emulated by other sites such as Cape Coast Castle (Ghana) 
and the Slave Route (Benin). 


T.R. Landry 

With the memory of the trans-Atlantic slave trade still strong in Ouidah, each 
time a person actively participates in or reproduces the script created by the Slave 
Route, local memories of the slave trade are reinforced — and thereby remembered 
not as replicable historical “facts” but rather as embodied, creative performances. 
Examination of important historical sites off the western coast of Africa reveals that 
the trans-Atlantic slave trade is not remembered in the same ways. The Maison des 
Esclaves in Senegal, for example, provides visitors with a slave-centric script that is 
heavily vested in the horrific and lived realities of slavery. The Slave Route in Benin, 
by contrast, alternates between a historic legacy that the Beninois have “come to 
terms with” (Singleton 1999:159), focusing on Benin’s tangible monuments such 
as the former Portuguese fort and the de Souza family compound that highlight 
Africa’s historic role in slave trading, and that of a historical telling that attends 
to more emotionally sensitive scripts, centered in the village of Zougobodji, which 
places the horrific lived experiences of enslaved peoples front and center. 

Rush criticizes the narrative of The Slave Routs as “both simplified and embel- 
lished” (2001:42). Yet, as I have suggested, convenient simplifications and Active 
embellishments do not make the narrative any less authentic. Instead, in the Slave 
Route, UNESCO has joined forces with the local government and individual tour 
guide interpretations to create a narrative that is accepted as “authentic” by both 
local residents and international tourists. 

As I have shown, the Slave Route’s authentic value is best explored as a sub- 
jective reality, one that takes collective memories and shared cultural realities into 
account. Unlike positivist notions of measurable and testable “truths,” the Slave 
Route’s authenticity is not dependent on historical or scientific “fact.” Rather the 
Slave Route’s authenticity is one that is firmly positioned in embodied action, mem- 
ory, and collective imaginings of the past. International tourists who travel to Benin 
to explore Benin’s slaving past experience the authentic through their bodies. I have 
argued that visitors trust the authentic value of the Slave Route because of its ability 
to convince. And its ability to convince is further bolstered by the authority embod- 
ied by UNESCO, the local government, and local agents as well as the strategic use 
of “the original.” As people of varying nationalities, races, and ethnicities traverse 
the Slave Route in Ouidah, many have moving and even life-changing experiences 
that are made possible because of the Slave Route’s authentic value. For these peo- 
ple, an authentic experience is not contingent on its historical accuracy. Rather, 
human experiences, including visiting heritage sites, owning cultural artifacts, or 
believing the inherent authority of a given person or institution, are dependent on 
their ability to convince, and on the collective need and/or desire for social actors to 
perform convincingly. In the end, memories and experiences are real because they 
must be, not because they just are. 

Acknowledgments This project was made possible thanks to pre-dissertation funding from 
the West African Research Association (WARA) and the Department of Anthropology at the 
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I would like to offer my deepest thanks to Sophia 
Balakian, Junjie Chen, Angela Glaros, Lance Larkin, Bronwym Mills, Nancy A. Phaup, D. Farchild 
Ruggles, Bjprn Westguard, and especially Alma Gottlieb and Helaine Silverman for their insight- 
ful comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this chapter. I am forever indebted to Martine 

10 Touring the Slave Route 


de Souza and her lovely family who over the years have become great friends as they have wel- 
comed me into their family. I also would like to offer a special merci beaucoup to all my friends in 
Benin who opened up their homes and their lives to me, especially to His Majesty Daagbo Hounon 
Tomadljehoukpon, the Supreme Chief of Vodun in Benin, and His Majesty Kabiyesi Oba Onikoyi, 
King of the Ouidah Yoruba community and its vicinities. 


1. Although called “Ouidah ’92,” the festival was not actually celebrated for the first time until 
February 8-18, 1993. The festival highlighted Vodun-/Vodou-inspired art from Benin, Haiti, 
and Brazil, among other places, and emphasized the dynamic transnational relationships that 
are still maintained by people in Africa and the African diaspora. 

2. The word singbome roughly translates as “two-story house.” According to de Souza family 
history, the name singbome was adopted to describe the compound because Francisco Felix de 
Souza was the only resident of Ouidah in the early to mid 1800 s who lived in a multi-story 
home. Today, the descendants of Francisco Felix de Souza still live there, and de Souza’s burial 
place and various personal effects are housed here, too. 

3. Dahomey’s Amazon warriors were an all-female army whose members, according to oral his- 
tory, severed their right breast so as to improve their proficiency with bows and arrows and, 
later, firearms. 

4. Since October 31, 1996, the city of Ouidah has been on UNESCO’s “tentative list” for World 
Heritage consideration because of its historical importance in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. 

5. For a lengthy discussion regarding the unlikelihood of the ceremony, see Law (2004) and Rush 

( 2001 ). 


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Chapter 11 

Carving the Nation: Zimbabwean Sculptors 
and the Contested Heritage of Aesthetics 

Lance L. Larkin 


Amid the world’s highest inflation, political chaos, rampant corruption, regular 
public health disasters, extraordinary personal suffering, and international critique, 
Zimbabwe still retains a cultural life struggling to survive. Indeed, one particu- 
lar “product” of this southern African country retains international allure: its art. 
Zimbabwean stone sculptors are well known in international art markets, and prior 
to the current troubles, tourists and art dealers alike were their key consumers and 
disseminators. With its extraordinary international success, it is appropriate to speak 
of a Zimbabwean stone sculpture movement. 

The history of this art form and its contemporary dilemmas and opportunities 
are the subject of this chapter [Note 1]. My theoretical framework follows post- 
colonial calls to highlight a historical specificity grounded in place, linking global 
identity politics to nationalism and to international trade (Loomba et al. 2005). I 
seek to understand how these artists position their work within international markets 
and other institutional ideologies, including the framework of the 2003 UNESCO 
Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (see discussion 
in Ruggles and Silverman 2009). However, to understand the effect of institu- 
tionalizing heritage, it is necessary to first examine the historical legacy of the 

Contested History Born in the Colonial Encounter 

The Zimbabwean landscape is dotted with ancient structures built by carefully fit- 
ting together unmortared stone (Fig. 11.1). Over 250 “stone houses,” or zimbabwes , 
are found scattered throughout the country and into South Africa (Garlake 1994). 
The ruin now known as Great Zimbabwe was once a flourishing center for a loose 
confederation of rulers (Matenga 1998), and large, ancient urban centers such as 

L.L. Larkin (El) 

Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801, USA 

H. Silverman (ed.), Contested Cultural Heritage , 

DOI 10. 1007/978- 1-44 1 9-7305-4_l 1 , © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 201 1 



L.L. Larkin 

Fig. 11.1 The ruins of Great Zimbabwe consist of massive structures surrounded by unmortared 
stone walls, often 30 feet tall. (Photo: Lance Larkin) 

this were responsible for a consolidation of wealth under state rulers. Eventually, 
as the population grew, stresses on the environment created dispersal into small vil- 
lages (Sylvester 1991). The zimbabwes had fallen into ruin by the time of European 
colonialism (Winter-Irving 1995). 

Today we know that these ruins were once thriving settlements built by the ances- 
tors of the contemporary Shona [Note 2], dating to the thirteenth century (Beach 
1998). But during the colonial era indigenous origins were not acknowledged by 
the white regime. Instead, the white Rhodesian government attributed these ruins to 
the biblical Queen of Sheba or the Phoenicians (Bent 1893; Frederikse 1990). 

In addition to the finally crafted stonework of the zimbabwes, stone carving was 
a hallmark of Shona civilization. As an example, stone plinths topped with carved 
bird emblems were found in the Great Zimbabwe ruins (Fig. 1 1.2) — eight of which 
were quickly stolen by Europeans (Matenga 1998). Despite the abandonment of 
the ancient city centers, Shona people have continued sculpting to the present time, 
carving personal wooden religious items (Dewey 1991; Nettleton 1984). However, 
the link between indigenous wood carving and contemporary sculpting is tenuous 
at best. 

The contemporary Zimbabwean stone sculpture industry finds its roots in the 
British colonial period in Rhodesia, the name of the country before independence. In 
1955 the colonial government built the Rhodes National Gallery to show exhibitions 
of European art. Frank McEwen, an English museum curator working in France, 
was invited to be the first director. McEwen arrived in 1956, provided contacts with 

1 1 Carving the Nation 


Fig. 11.2 One of 10 
soapstone birds found at the 
Great Zimbabwe ruins by 
Europeans at the end of the 
nineteenth century. Eight and 
a half birds were removed 
from the country by 
Europeans, with only four 
and a half being returned to 
the country in 1981 after 
independence. (Drawing by 
Lance Larkin) 

the European art scene (he knew Braque and Picasso among others), and worked to 
promote local art (Zilberg 1996). The colonial government’s suppression of indige- 
nous artistic expression upset McEwen so much that he started encouraging local 
people to express themselves through sculpture workshops at the gallery (Arnold 
1986; Zilberg 2001). The politics of art would soon converge with the politics of the 

In December 1962, 70 years after colonization, a hard-line conservative party 
took office in Rhodesia. Pressured by the UK to change to majority rule, by 1970 
the Rhodesian government had declared the nation a republic and broke links with 
Britain in order to maintain white rule (Godwin and Hancock 1993). This Unilateral 
Declaration of Independence (UDI) resulted in the United Nations quickly impos- 
ing sanctions. In consequence, the Rhodesian ruling elite focused on becoming 


L.L. Larkin 

Fig. 11.3 Artists now display their sculpture at Tengenenge on pedestals in a literal forest artwork. 
(Photo: Lance Larkin) 

self-sufficient by localizing the production and assembly of necessities (Chitiyo 
2000), with help from sanctions-busting countries such as the USA, which continued 
importing Rhodesian chrome (DeRoche 2001). 

The sanctions affected most sectors of the Rhodesian economy, including 
the newly burgeoning arts movement. The stone sculptors’ art cooperative at 
Tengenenge started in 1966, when Tom Blomefield’s tobacco farm was threat- 
ened by the international sanctions placed on Rhodesia. Blomefield decided his 
African workers could make an income from sculpting, and he turned his farm 
into a sprawling outdoor art market (Fig. 11.3) (Winter- Irving 2001). Although 
Tengenenge village would become quite successful, the politics of the time placed 
the continuation of indigenous art in a precarious position [Note 3]. 

Confident in their moral superiority, the Rhodesian government strengthened 
institutional racial segregation and exploitative policies after the UDI (Bourdillon 
1998; Moore 2005) [Note 4], increasingly becoming more isolated from the rest 
of the world. But the struggle for indigenous nationalism gained speed within 
Rhodesia. Black Africans demanded sovereignty and called on the international 
community to support indigenous self-determination (DeRoche 2001). The resulting 
war for independence increased worldwide political pressure against the Rhodesian 
regime. Interestingly, publicity for the cause also occurred through non-standard 
means on an international level. In this regard the stone sculpture movement became 
an important facet of nationalist discourse — a selling point for art, the independence 
movement, and the postcolonial nation. In short, the colonial history of Zimbabwe 
has had profound effects on the stone sculpture industry. 

1 1 Carving the Nation 


The Sculpture Industry and Rhodesian Politics 

The early success of Zimbabwean stone sculpture was due in large part to McEwen’s 
international art connections. McEwen provided a link to established art networks in 
an industry driven by galleries, exhibitions, and trade journals. He often described 
the sculpture in terms of “tradition” and links to African mysticism (Pearce 1993; 
Zilberg 1996). The marketing of “traditional” Zimbabwean stone sculpture by early 
patrons such as McEwen also connected the movement to a “tangible heritage” via 
the sculptures found at ancient Great Zimbabwe. Art dealers and exhibition review- 
ers also romanticized the sculptures’ cultural significance. One article described the 
exhibition at the 1962 First International Congress of African Culture in Rhodesia 
in these terms: 

The exhibits have been arranged so that the viewer passes from a dark room full of dimly lit 
fetishistic shrines into the light and magnificence of a room full of Yoruba masks and head- 
dresses, Ife and Benin bronzes and the terra cottas of the little known Nigerian Nok culture. 
Then McEwen has brilliantly juxtaposed African sculpture with photographs of works by 
Picasso, Braque, Brancusi and Julio Gonzales, all of whom were profoundly influenced by 
the African art they encountered in the early years of the century. ( Newsweek 1962) 

A key component of selling the artwork at this time was the implicit theme 
of cultural difference. But by 1965, McEwen, as director of the Rhodes National 
Gallery in the capital city of Harare, found himself in a socio-political paradox. 
The government of Rhodesia had declared its independence from Britain in order 
to continue white rule, while McEwen — a white European — was promoting indige- 
nous self-expression through sculpture. McEwen’s strategy in selling this art form to 
the overseas market was to mobilize his contacts with the European art scene and to 
highlight traditional African religion to them. He linked the new art to a deep-seated 
stone-carving tradition, evidenced at Great Zimbabwe, while also emphasizing that 
it was a modernist art form “unsullied by Western schools of thought regarding the 
arts” (McEwen 1968 n.p.). 

In a 1991 television documentary, Zimbabwe: Talking Stones, McEwen stated, 
“These gentle, spiritual, wonderful people — the Shona — highly mystical and reli- 
gious, they had stopped carving [but] of course, there had been sculpture in Rhodesia 
Zimbabwe four or five hundred years ago” (Bowe and Bulley 1992). This mystifica- 
tion of the art’s long history gave it legitimacy as both a “fine” and an “ethnographic 
art,” which proved quite successful at the time [Note 5], In Zimbabwe, sculpture 
as “modern” artwork with links to “tradition” was hailed by dealers, collectors, 
critics, and scholars at the start of the movement in the 1960s and 1970s as wor- 
thy of collection (Beier 1968; Camden Arts Center 1970; Johnston 1973; Kuhn 
1978; Polakoff 1972). Following global art-collecting trends during the early twen- 
tieth century, European collectors and ethnographers were personally vested in 
promoting indigenous arts as modernist and worthy of “fine art” status (Clifford 

Despite Zimbabwean stone sculpture’s rapid rise to international fame during the 
late colonial period, the white Rhodesian population remained ambivalent, showing 
varying degrees of interest and revulsion for this new art form ( Newscheck 1962). 


L.L. Larkin 

The lack of early support for stone sculpture among white Rhodesians coincided 
with the fight by black Africans for independence. The indigenous artistic battle for 
legitimacy was also reflected in the sculpture. 

Sculptors’ artwork has displayed themes of war since the 1970s and themes 
emphasizing indigenous identity and critique of the colonial state entered the stone 
sculpture movement as the nationalist struggle accelerated. Tengenenge provides 
an important link to the early years of the “movement,” as demonstrated in a pho- 
tograph Tom Blomefield showed me in 2001 of one sculpture created during the 
1970s depicting a man holding a submachine gun with bandoleers slung over both 
shoulders. Other pieces included, for example, the sculpture of an armed guerrilla 
and the bust of the nationalist leader Joshua Nkomo (Male 1978). 

Debates in Parliament over closing the National Gallery added to the contro- 
versy about the sculpture when government officials stated that there was too much 
“Modern Art” being shown in the museum instead of “European classic artwork.” 
One Parliament member decried the exhibits of indigenous art, saying, “How can 
you possibly ask me to subscribe to [a] culture when I say in my mind it is a 
monstrosity, it is something conceived by a diseased mind?” ( Rhodesia Herald 
1966). Despite, or perhaps in response to, this reaction, some scholars who special- 
ized in African arts joined McEwen in promoting the Zimbabwean stone sculpture 
movement (Fagg and McEwen 1972). 

White Rhodesians’ criticism of the contemporary stone sculpture during the early 
years is put into context by surveying local newspapers for articles on African artists. 
The noteworthy point here is more the sin of omission than commission. Newspaper 
articles about Rhodesian artists that were collected by the National Gallery’s library 
in 1959 and 1960 did not contain a single mention of black African artists. This 
silence did not change much over the final two decades of white rule, despite 
McEwen’s tenure at the Gallery, and his emphasis on indigenous artwork. For exam- 
ple, in 1961, only 14% of the newspaper coverage about art mentioned black artists 
[Note 6]. 

In addition to the National Gallery, few other outlets for the art were open in 
Rhodesia during the independence war, and this created a lack of representation 
between creators and consumers. One gallery owner worried that “the work had to 
stand by itself, and its full cultural significance was not always realized” (Winter- 
Irving 1995:176). In other words, the artists could not speak directly to the buyers 
about their own artwork, and their sculpture was for the most part invisible within 
Rhodesia during the fight for independence. 

As the internal war for black majority rule escalated in 1974 and 1975, and after 
McEwen had left the country, only 11% of newspaper articles about Rhodesian art 
mentioned local black artists. When the independence war reached a climax, and 
rumors of a political compromise started to circulate in 1978 (Frederikse 1990), the 
number of articles about art that addressed non- Western artists rose to 25% [Note 
7], But only after independence in 1981 did the number of African artists mentioned 
in newspaper articles discussing the arts jump to 60%. 

The events of the war for independence from the Rhodesian regime were 
refracted into the sculptors’ lives, and the artwork reflected “life experiences” of 

1 1 Carving the Nation 


artists during these times. These life experiences sometimes invaded the sculptors’ 
lives even if the events were not directly reflected in their art. For example, one artist 
was thrown in jail as he was carrying a piece of stone to his workshop. The police 
arrested him because he was on the outskirts of a riot, and they took him as a sus- 
pect in a rock-throwing incident (H.E.W. 1964). Therefore, institutional racism in 
the form of what we would now consider “racial profiling” affected sculptors in the 
streets while the Rhodesian government debated the sculpture movement’s cultural 

Fine Art or Ethnographic Art? 

Although McEwen encouraged gallery workshop students to explore their indige- 
nous identity, he has been criticized for encouraging the sale of the exotic Other, 
as did many other patrons of African art elsewhere at the time (see Clifford 1988; 
Harney 2004; Perkins and Morphy 2006). McEwen also dismissed the role of early 
Christian missionaries in training artists as woodcarvers who later became well- 
known sculptors (Pearce 1993; Zilberg 1996). Regardless of McEwen’s failings, an 
exhibit of black Rhodesian art that he organized at the Museum of Modern Art in 
New York in 1969, and two other exhibits he organized in France in 1971 and 1972, 
exposed the work and identity of Zimbabwean artists to many collectors from all 
over the world (Winter-Irving 1995). 

As such, McEwen provided venues for validation of black Africans’ creativity 
within museums and galleries — the “fine art” world. Institutional acceptance of the 
sculptures resulted in a valorization of individual artists and provided a pedigree 
for “fine art” collectors (Price 1991). The modern aesthetic was also subtly rein- 
forced by stories of indigenous identity — ethnographic details that were purportedly 
embedded within the artwork — told to consumers by dealers. Despite McEwen’s 
condemnation of unoriginal work that was made for tourists — which he dubbed 
“airport art” — McEwen inadvertently instigated this lucrative route of production 
by insisting the artists create ethnographic work (McEwen 1967, 1972). 

McEwen ascribed religious ideas to the artwork, leading to a conflation of “fine 
art” and “ethnographic art.” Many critics contested the attributed visual links to 
“tradition” and religion (Roberts et al. 1982), but it is important to keep in mind 
that the Euro-American dichotomy between “fine art” and “ethnographic art” was 
entangled in liberal ideas that led to the rise of modernism in Europe (see below) and 
were imbricated in the rise of nationalism and nation building in southern Africa (see 
Errington 1998). Although some sculptors’ representations included pieces about 
ancestral spirits, other artists rejected the early European positioning of the sculpture 
as an exotic art commodity, springing from an indigenous “cultural heritage,” and 
instead carved symbols of contemporary issues. 

This evocation of the concept of “cultural heritage,” linking modern and ancient 
stoneworking, began in the 1960s and continues today as was demonstrated in 2001, 
when a 25 year-old Zimbabwean sculptor in Harare told me that artists not only 
“remind people about their culture [through their art],” but also tell new stories 


L.L. Larkin 

about society (personal communication, September 20, 2001; Nayanhongo 1988). 
Surely herein lay the threat perceived by some white Rhodesians during the period 
of minority rule, isolation, and the ensuing indigenous struggle for independence. 

But “heritage” is an inherently contested assertion. Jean Comaroff has succinctly 
defined the limits of heritage, saying, “[it] is history and culture as legacy, a qual- 
ity to be alienated in the market, thereby reproducing identity in its postcolonial 
form” (2005:136). And, indeed, although Zimbabwean sculpture is now recog- 
nized around the world, some artists contest the historical legacy of the artwork as 
“heritage.” For example, Dominic Benhura, a second-generation sculptor, has been 
extremely successful in fine art markets and has complained about the confines of 
the “Zimbabwean art form” as intangible cultural heritage. He has used his lucrative 
income to open a workshop teaching new artists how to sculpt and providing stone, 
a place to stay, and food (personal communication, July 19, 2001). 

Many artists’ incomes are at risk and predicated on or against the heritage of 
the Zimbabwean stone sculpture movement. In my research I link a theoretical 
understanding of heritage with the discord of some Zimbabwean artists about their 
exotification within the market. I attend to the subtlety of history before it is com- 
modified in the form of “heritage,” to understand the contestations of identity within 
the stone sculpture industry in the present, as illustrated below. 

Codified Cultural Heritage 

The name of the country taken after independence — Zimbabwe — means “stone 
houses,” referring to the famous stone ruins in the countryside that index a major 
regional polity that flourished in the thirteenth century. Thus, the crafting of the 
modern nation in a fundamental way was both a literal and metaphoric reference 
to stone sculpting of the past. However, it was not just the post-independence gov- 
ernment that gave institutional salience to the ruins of the past and the sculpting 
practices of the present. UNESCO codified Zimbabwe’s cultural heritage when it 
listed the Great Zimbabwe ruins as a World Heritage Site in 1986 (ICOMOS 1986). 

Additionally, “traditional” Zimbabwean art forms have been welcomed into 
UNESCO’s canon of Intangible Cultural Heritage [Note 8]. Despite the sculpture’s 
colonial and postcolonial contested background of whether it is a continued cultural 
tradition or not (Zilberg 1996), the Zimbabwean sculpture movement fits within 
international protocols as an “intangible heritage,” according to Zimbabwe’s entry 
in UNESCO’s “Definitions for Cultural Heritage”: 

[The intangible heritage of Zimbabwe is] the totality of tradition-based creations of a cul- 
tural community, expressed by a group or individuals and recognized as reflecting the 
expectations of a community in so far as they reflect its cultural and social identity, its stan- 
dards and values are transmitted orally, by imitation or by other means. Its forms are, among 
others, language, literature, music, dance, games, mythology, rituals, customs, handicrafts, 
architecture and other arts. (UNESCO 2001) 

Although Zimbabwean sculpture is not explicitly listed in Zimbabwe’s 
UNESCO entry for intangible heritage, the art form has been promoted by the 

1 1 Carving the Nation 


post-independence government as “traditional” and worthy of protection. At the 
first Nedlaw Sculpture Forum in 1984 in the National Gallery of Zimbabwe (pre- 
viously the Rhodes National Gallery where McEwen worked), the Director of Arts 
and Crafts in the Ministry of Youth, Sport, and Culture announced the need for 
increased state funding for individual sculptors and the need for artists to reflect the 
new social order in their artwork. During the 1980s, the government even briefly 
examined every shipment of sculpture leaving the country so as to verify its “qual- 
ity” (Hava 1984). Even more explicitly, sculpture has acted as official ambassador 
of the nation. In 1981 a poem and a sculpture titled “Happy Marriage” were sent as 
a gift to Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer from the recently liberated nation 
of Zimbabwe (H.R. 1981). 

Furthermore, the Zimbabwean government includes the National Art Gallery — 
the primary instigator of the contemporary Zimbabwean stone sculpture movement 
in the 1960s and one of its lasting patrons today — under its support via the Ministry 
of Education, Sport and Culture (Mapurisana 2001). As a parastatal institution, the 
museum is officially recognized, although directed to “be commercially viable” 
(NGZ n.d.), and it continues to emphasize the sculpture through its permanent 

However, the invention of this “artistic tradition” is based in the tangible her- 
itage of the ruins at Great Zimbabwe, which have proven remarkably resilient in 
the popular imagination (Zunidza 2001). Consequently, in addition to early patrons’ 
support of the sculpture movement, its invention as a tradition (e.g., Hobsbawm and 
Ranger 1983) was solidified through a link with past sculptural practices at Great 
Zimbabwe and nation-building practices via the post-independence government and 
international institutions such as UNESCO (Anderson 2000). 

Practices of “official” authentication solidify ideas of a static culture within insti- 
tutional preferences, as has been the case in Zimbabwe since independence (Ucko 
1994). For instance, the call for Zimbabwean museums to recognize their role “in the 
promotion and preservation of our cultural heritage, but also [their] positive contri- 
bution to economic development and nation building” (Munjeri 1991:454) implies 
an ideology of a static culture based on the “tangible” constructions of the past 
(e.g., Great Zimbabwe) — and it is this idea of “Zimbabwean” or “Shona” stone 
sculpture as a never-changing entity that has some contemporary sculptors chafing 
against the confines of this categorization [Note 9], Moreover, the idea of protect- 
ing intangible heritage is predicated on an idea of “culture” as a static, bounded 
entity. Such a static view of protected cultures directly contradicts African soci- 
eties’ mixing and cross fertilization both before and after colonization (Amselle 
2004). Ironically, too, this static view of intangible heritage contradicts UNESCO’s 
own acknowledgment that cultures do indeed mix. For example, UNESCO has 
highlighted the “glass beads and fragments of porcelain of Chinese and Persian 
origin [found in Great Zimbabwe] which bear testimony to the extent of trade 
within the continent” (ICOMOS 1986). Despite the contradiction in UNESCO’s 
literature about static cultural practice, the salience of this ideology persists — and 
sculptors must contend with ideas of unchanging perceptions within global art 


L.L. Larkin 

Complications of the Art Market 

The art scene in Zimbabwe manifests complex layers of acceptance, negotiation, and 
outright rejection of the “traditional” and nationalist nature of the sculpture move- 
ment in relation to the Western art market’s modernist underpinnings. Despite being 
marketed as a “traditional” art form, the readily recognizable carved stone style has 
quite recent origins. It began in the 1960s when European gallery owners began to 
promote stone carving as a continuation of “traditional” carving as practiced by the 
Shona people. The modern art mediators encouraged local artists to present their 
sculptures as an indigenous tradition with ancient roots. Many contemporary sculp- 
tors are comfortable with this association and produce sculptures that are overtly 
linked to commonly shared notions of traditional Shona culture. This is exemplified 
by works bearing such titles as “Witchdoctor” and “Spirit Ancestor” (Fig. 11.4). 

At the same time, however, many other contemporary Zimbabwean artists see 
themselves not as bearers of an ancient Zimbabwean tradition but as modern 
artists — indeed, these artists see themselves as encumbered by an emphasis on their 
national origins or, even worse, notions of “dark Africa.” These sculptors adeptly 
use Western art markets to their professional benefit. They travel and show their 
artwork internationally, deploying tools of modernity to further their careers as 
artists — not “Zimbabwean” or “Shona” artists [Note 10], but simply “artists.” These 
sculptors resent when they are marginalized from the world of “fine art” by being 
categorized as part of the “traditional” Zimbabwean stone sculpture movement 

Fig. 11.4 Although this sculpture is more complex than most “tourist artwork,” it epitomizes 
carved "tradition,” highlighting a Zimbabwean party wherein the musicians take a break while 
eating sadza (indigenous porridge), their instruments resting on the ground in front of them. (Ngoni 
Chandigwa, 2001. untitled) (Photo: Lance Larkin) 

1 1 Carving the Nation 


Fig. 11.5 Displayed in a 
United States gallery, this 
sculpture is representative of 
the “classic” Zimbabwean 
sculptural style: abstract, 
smooth faces with pointy 
heads. (Unknown artist, 2000, 
untitled) (Photo: Lance 

(Fig. 11.5). The differing self-identifications between artists bearing purported 
ancient cultural traditions and the avant-garde artists of Zimbabwe are reprised in 
the Western art market’s dichotomy of “tourist art” (or craftwork) and “fine art” 
[Note 11], 

Zimbabwean sculptors are motivated to produce sculptures that sell. However, 
they face restricted access to international markets. Based on my research in the 
region in June-December 2001 and Summer 2008, I hypothesize that some sculp- 
tors work actively to transcend or even contest these limits, while others accept 
or at least accommodate the polarized scheme of “fine art” versus “tourist art” 
that structures the Western art market (Court 1992). In either case, the artists must 
accommodate both African and Western dealers who routinely distinguish between 
what they define as “fine art” and “tourist art” (Bascom 1976; Ben-Amos 1977; 
Price 1991). The latter category is, further, often conflated by dealers with anony- 
mous “tribal art.” While some scholars of the visual arts explore how this dualist 


L.L. Larkin 

classification functions either on the ground, or in a theoretical scheme (Clifford 
1988; Graburn 1976; Kileff and Kileff 1996; Zilberg 1996), few interrogate the 
problems that the categories themselves raise, and fewer still explore art movements 
that encompass both poles simultaneously (Myers 2002). To address these gaps, I 
position Zimbabwean stone sculpture not only as a modernist art movement that 
embodies both ends of the dichotomy between “fine art” and “tourist/tribal art” per- 
meating international art markets, but as an art tradition that occupies the contested 
domains between the opposed poles of this system. 

For the artists, there is more at stake in rejecting the “fine art”/”tourist art” dis- 
tinction than mere income, important though that is. Unlike Western artists, whom 
art institutions and popular media alike proclaim as paragons of a unique vision in 
a liberal progression of culture (Burger 1984; Foster 1996; Poggioli 1968), African 
artists often find themselves defined as creating certain types of artwork that are 
produced in a village by a “tribe,” with no individual identity and no link to the art 
world at large (Farrell 2003; Oguibe 2004b). In other words, most African sculptors 
are condemned to produce anonymous, “primitivist” art created by an ethnic group, 
rather than creating work as artists holding agency and having knowledge about 
how their work fits into international art worlds. By contrast, those few Zimbabwean 
sculptors who manage to produce pieces that dealers classify as “fine art” must work 
within rigid confines of the market that restrict their output in other ways (Enwezor 
2003; Gutsa 2001; and see below). From these conjoined restrictions, Zimbabwean 
artists are often limited in what they sculpt and must resign themselves either to 
playing the role of image producers within “tourist art” workshops (Jules-Rosette 
1984) or to displaying their work in “fine art” exhibitions that insultingly categorize 
all the artists as “African” (Oguibe and Enwezor 1999). 

The exclusion of “fine artists” from certain markets echoes Zimbabwe’s rejection 
by Western nations as a participant in the global economy. That is, just as the focus 
on “primitivist” Zimbabwean sculpture by dealers and critics disenfranchises artists 
from the high-stakes, avant-garde, international art market (Errington 1998; Kinsella 
2005; Zilberg 2002), so, too, does Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, distance 
the country from global commodities markets (Wines 2006). International economic 
sanctions on Zimbabwe, due to human rights violations [Note 12], have resulted in a 
flight of capital that is limiting most Zimbabwean sculptors’ access to the profitable 
“fine art” markets and from major contemporary exhibitions of the West. Similar 
to the controversy surrounding the current government, the early link to “tradition” 
constitutes a wedge that currently divides sculptors regarding the future of their 
intangible heritage. 

Uneasy Juxtaposition Between Modernism and “Tradition” 

The division of sculptors who ascribe to the “traditional” origin of the sculpture 
and those who contest this heritage springs from ideologies embedded within a 
Euro-American art historical tradition. Delving into these hegemonic configura- 
tions, I visited seven United States galleries that all label sculptures produced by 

1 1 Carving the Nation 


artists of Zimbabwe as either “Shona” or "Zimbabwean,” and often cluster all the 
artists together in one exhibit. It is striking that a Manhattan gallery — which has 
been featuring work from Zimbabwe for 20 years — does not promote shows by 
individual sculptors, as they do for all their other shows (including some artists 
from South Africa). While visiting this studio, I overheard a conversation between 
the gallery owner and a potential buyer. The owner explained one contemporary 
Zimbabwean sculptor’s mixed-media artwork as “Primitivist with sophistication,” 
demonstrating that even in one of the major modern art centers of the world, 
Zimbabwean sculpture is still positioned in contrast to “modernity.” Indeed, most 
galleries in the USA exhibiting Zimbabwean artists tie their sculpture to ethnicity or 

According to another gallery owner — a Gambian who had traveled extensively 
in Africa — the misnomer of “Shona sculpture” was an easy and necessary label for 
marketing the artwork, although he did not “want to oversimplify [by using that 
title]” (personal communication, March 19, 2007). I contend that Western catego- 
rizing of the movement places sculptors in the difficult position of either complying 
with or contesting their place within the markets, and, indeed, their own sense 
of self. 

One very successful “fine art” sculptor in Zimbabwe told me in August 2001 
that early in his career he tried selling an abstract stone sculpture plant form to 
the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, but they would not buy it because the artwork 
was not “Shona stone sculpture.” Other “fine art” sculptors discuss a disjunction 
between the myth of the sculpture, as it is often marketed, and reality. For example, 
Tapfuma Gutsa (2001) has noted the misguided but frequent trust of buyers in the 
“traditional tales” told to them by the gallery owners about Zimbabwean sculptors. 
At the same time, this sculptor defended his own borrowing of themes and stylistic 
conventions from the West because, as he explained, “the West has borrowed from 

To highlight how the dichotomy between “fine art” and “tourist/tribal art” con- 
strains artists’ options, I turn to an ethnographic example. The Zimbabwean “fine 
artist” Blessing Chitsinga [Note 13] sells his sculptures for thousands of United 
States dollars. He emphasizes the importance of showcasing individual pieces on 
pedestals, rather than clustering many works together in a single space (Fig. 1 1 .6), 
“so the sculptors are not selling their work like they are [located] in a flea mar- 
ket” (personal communication. May 26, 2008). In this way, Chitsinga battles 
against the income-deflating category of “primitive” sculpture and the anonymity 
of “traditional” artwork (Kinsella 2005). 

By contrast, sculptor James Lovemore sells his pieces at the Avondale People’s 
Market, a crowded open-air venue in Harare hosting stalls of individual sculp- 
tors (Fig. 11.7). Lovemore believes that only those artists who produce realistic 
pieces — as represented in much “tourist art” — have mastered sculpting (Fig. 11.8). 
To Lovemore (personal communication. May 24, 2008), the rows of “tourist art” 
in the market stalls represent skill in an art form that is authenticated by its seri- 
ality (Steiner 1999), rather than being evidence of mass-produced unoriginality. 
For this reason, Lovemore claims, anyone who can create realistic art should be 


L.L. Larkin 

Fig. 11.6 This untitled 
artwork has been mounted by 
the artist on a wooden 
pedestal in his rural stand. 
Much further in the 
background to the left, 
another sculpture is seen 
creating an uncluttered space 
using distance. (Zvabata, 
2001, untitled) (Photo: Lance 

Fig. 11.7 Sculpture displayed at the Avondale People’s Market. (Photo: Lance Larkin) 

1 1 Carving the Nation 


Fig. 11.8 Tourist art includes 
realistic animals and busts of 
African queens and warriors. 
(Nicholas Tandi, 2002, 
“Bride”) (Photo: Lance 

able to achieve the financial success of “fine art” sculptors. Lovemore believes 
that if those who produce “tourist art” were given a chance to display their pieces 
in a large exhibition, they would be more likely to gain the backing of wealthy 

These sculptors interpret international art markets in very different ways. 
Chitsinga believes that sculpture should be displayed as though in a Western 
museum, to raise its value through an economy of expectation: if it is sold in institu- 
tional settings with an emphasis on display, it will be categorized as “fine art,” will 
be worth more, and will be elevated to a higher level of distinction (see Bourdieu 
1984; Plattner 1996). Although Lovemore eloquently explains his understanding 
of “good” artists, he does not say why more Zimbabwean sculptors “are not given 
a chance.” Chitsinga acknowledges contested domains within the market (Oguibe 
and Enwezor 1999), while Lovemore sees the realms of “tourist art” and “fine art” 
as separated only by the opportunity to gain patronage. The contrast of views artic- 
ulated by these two sculptors demonstrates how the polarity of “tourist art” and 
“fine art” is contested and complicated by local conceptions of the international art 

This example illustrates how one “fine artist,” Chitsinga, understands and uses 
the market while the lesser-paid “tourist artist” is economically constrained by the 
artist’s choice of style. On the surface, the contrast is not dissimilar to United States 
art practices in local markets (e.g., Plattner’s 1998 findings on realism and collec- 
tor interest); however, the differences between modernism in Western and African 
contexts have been explored extensively by scholars (Comaroff and Comaroff 1993; 
Ferguson 1999; Mudimbe-Boyi 2002; Rutherford 1999). Unfortunately, even those 
artists who learn that the Euro-American art markets expect African artists to 


L.L. Larkin 

produce what I term an “art of difference” — and then work to transcend the limits 
imposed by that expectation — must still contend with the constraints of Western 
patronage (Oguibe 2004a). 

As I discovered during fieldwork in 2001, some artists acknowledge the 
Western-imposed dichotomy of “fine art” versus “tourist art” and explicitly high- 
light the socially constructed categories. One successful “fine art” sculptor said, 
“It takes skill and specific tools to make [tourist art] consistently. You can’t 
condemn a craftsman for doing his work. Even when making something not nec- 
essarily for yourself, but saying, ‘So-and-so will like this’ — the importance is 
in the admiration of the work” (personal communication, November 23, 2001). 
Acknowledging the Western aesthetic dichotomy, this sculptor implied that artists 
actively construct personal aesthetics tied to the market — while sometimes co- 
opting or contesting those values to various degrees (Herle et al. 2002; Price 2007; 
Thomas 1991). 

For their part, many contemporary art critics condemn the Zimbabwean art move- 
ment as contrived and inauthentic, overwhelmed by unoriginal artwork (Byrd 2000) 
and in danger of devolving into “tourist art” (Feshbach 1993). Rather than assessing 
these critics’ claims to evaluate the value and “authenticity” of the artwork (Bowe 
and Bulley 1992; Breitz and Bowyer 1995; McEwen 1968) in a fine/tourist frame- 
work, it is critical to examine the sculpture in light of the Western art historical 
ideologies within which the artists must contend. 

Modernism and Postmodernism as Obfuscation of Capitalism 

Modernity as an identity is dependent on self- and group-affiliation, which is often 
contested in public spaces (Taylor 2001). The fraught choice to carve either “fine 
art” or “tourist art” is a decision all Zimbabwean artists must negotiate — being 
situated as they are within Western art history and the markets. Consequently, 
sculptors must choose an identity based on institutional art history pract- 
ices that control the present by categorizing what is documented from the past 
(Preziosi 1994). 

The legitimization of “primitive art” occurred within the New York market- 
place (among other major art markets) in the early twentieth century as modernism 
and primitivism rose as contradictory, but mutually implicated movements (Stoller 
2003). The historical modernist movement is based on a trend of thought that 
encouraged a liberal improvement of the human condition by examining all aspects 
of life and making “progressive” changes. One problem with modernism was its 
dependence on the judgments of certain cultural brokers to declare what was “pro- 
gressive” and what was not: in the domain of art, the brokers decide who gains 
access to museums, who does not, and on what terms. 

In the Zimbabwean context we have seen that the stone sculpture movement was 
marketed by Frank McEwen, a curator from Europe who encouraged the Shona to 
sculpt as a return to their roots, looking to the ruins at Great Zimbabwe as proof 
of their talent (Zilberg 1996). McEwen perceived African artists as “unsullied” by 

1 1 Carving the Nation 


Western schools of thought regarding the arts and, consequently, with “an infinite 
potential of natural creativity” (McEwen 1968). His well-meaning, but patronizing 
interaction left the artists without voices for McEwen described their work to buyers 
in terms of his own version of “Shona tradition.” Indeed, because Zimbabwean stone 
sculpture was created toward the end of the modernist art era, it helps us understand 
the current contestation of cultural heritage by illuminating the art form’s transition 
from modernism to postmodernism [Note 14]. 

Postmodernism, as the name suggests, followed modernism as a frame of thought 
that rejects bourgeois culture, often as a self-proclamation by scholars who want to 
critique their own counterparts [Note 15]. Within anthropology and the arts, “post- 
modernism” has referenced a diversity of ideas, but generally opposes a clear central 
hierarchy while celebrating complexity, contradiction, ambiguity, and the intercon- 
nectedness of the contemporary world (Harney 2004:150; also Marcus and Myers 
1995). Although the “postmodern turn” in anthropology encouraged critiques of 
how ethnography is performed and written (Marcus and Clifford 1986), some schol- 
ars now see it as falling a bit short. Postcolonial denouncements call for a scholarly 
"heightened incorporation of genealogical critique in relation to historical contexts 
and colonial questions, rather than to the hyper-aestheticization of the anthropolo- 
gist as ‘writer’ ” (Dirks 2001:234). Similarly, scholarly critiques of postmodernism 
reflect challenges by artists who contest the “heritage” implied in “multicultural” or 
postmodern art markets. 

Pushing past the boundaries of postmodernism involves giving sculptors a voice 
that is not constrained by modernist dealers and gallery owners, and also one 
wherein postmodern art dealers and scholars do not “define the limitations of appre- 
ciation and expectation, or what we might call the confines of perception, within 
which African artists are either constructed or called upon to construct themselves” 
(Oguibe and Enwezor 1999:19). I regard the rejection of Zimbabwean stone sculp- 
tures by contemporary avant-garde art markets (e.g., Zilberg 2002) as an exemplar 
of how postmodernism excludes many non- Western artists. In order to understand 
how artists’ contestation of Zimbabwean sculptural heritage excludes them from 
markets, it is critical to highlight power relationships to see who wields influence, 
and in what ways. 

Although many artists now talk directly with a buyer or collector about their art- 
work, thereby avoiding mediation — and exotification — by patrons such as McEwen, 
we must remember that dealers and gallery owners hold the capital to sell the work 
to the end consumer (Dirks 2001:236). The obscuring of world capitalism by focus- 
ing on culture and the postmodernist (albeit multicultural) turn only conceals the 
academy’s complicity in the markets’ inequalities (Dirks 2001:238). We must not 
just consider how heritage solidifies culture into unchanging “traditions,” but also 
acknowledge how those practices — when overlaid with the Western art markets’ 
division between “fine art” and “tourist art” — distance many artists from a lucrative 
living. Postmodern multiculturalism cannot be celebrated without acknowledging 
how the focus on “culture” has allowed scholarly critique to be sidelined, ignoring 
the impoverishment of, and a lack of access to the modern world by, many Africans 
(Ferguson 2007). 


L.L. Larkin 

A Heritage Not Carved in Stone 

The Zimbabwean stone sculpture movement was created and marketed as a 
perpetuation of “tradition” during the transition from colonialism to the modern 
nation-state. The European patrons of the movement spoke of the sculpture as a 
contemporary art form that was built on “natural talent” and “traditional culture.” 
McEwen directly linked the sculptors’ talents to what we would now call “tangi- 
ble heritage” via the ruins at Great Zimbabwe. The selling of the stone sculpture’s 
“heritage” via “tradition” and the past continued as both the post-independence gov- 
ernment and institutions such as UNESCO codified links to Zimbabwe’s “intangible 
heritage” of sculpting. The historical trajectory of the Zimbabwean stone sculpture 
movement has continued to affect artists although — following independence from 
the white Rhodesian regime — the contested heritage of the colonial subject is no 
longer found within their artwork. 

However, the explicit link between modern Zimbabwean sculpture and “tradi- 
tional” subject matter or stories about the work has created a problem for those 
contemporary artists who assert that they do not want to be confined to a cate- 
gory of “Zimbabwean” or “Shona” sculpture. They propose leaving behind these 
categories, which have solidified into an inflexible art form, or an “intangible her- 
itage” that is unchanging and must be carved in certain ways. Much like many 
African artists’ and scholars’ calls to push past the confines of postmodernism’s 
Eurocentric bias of insisting on boundaries created by difference (Oguibe and 
Enwezor 1999), these sculptors wish to be taken at face value as artists who can 
borrow from the West without worry of being labeled “inauthentic” (Gutsa 2001; 
Sibanda 2001). 

During the 1980s and 1990s, art markets around the world expanded as 
tourism became more prevalent, governments cut funding for the arts, and artists 
gained more independence from previous patrons (Harney 2004; Mullin 2001). 
In Zimbabwe, sculptors were able to experiment with different themes and 
forms although — similar to other indigenous modern art movements around the 
world (Myers 2002) — they were constrained within the confines of “difference” 
(Errington 1998). The disadvantage of Zimbabwean stone sculpture’s status as 
de facto “intangible heritage” is the expectation that the art will follow certain 
forms (Figs. 11.9, and 11.10) — formats which some contemporary artists fight 

Artists who sell their ethnicity, often to tourists, now find themselves living in 
a country in which they are increasingly unable to feed their families. In spirit- 
crushing irony, the government of Zimbabwe has scared off tourists, thus limiting 
the income of the majority of its artists who rely on the ethnic tradition of their 
"heritage.” This has resulted in many sculptors traveling to South Africa in order to 
sell sculpture, flaunting the confines of state borders in order to earn money for basic 
necessities. Additionally, dealers in most of the “fine art” galleries in South Africa 
are rejecting the output of “tourist sculpture,” proclaiming that the movement is 
contrived and passe; consequently, Zimbabwean artists now make only a limited 
income because they are excluded from upscale galleries. 

1 1 Carving the Nation 


Fig. 11.9 ‘ ‘Flow sculptures” 
of abstract families are 
common amongst “tourist 
Zimbabwean artwork.” 
(Unknown artist, 2008, 
untitled) (Photo: Lance 

Fig. 11.10 Many sculptors 
carve curved triangular faces 
similar to this iconic 
Zimbabwean artwork. 
(Unknown artist, 1998, 
untitled) (Photo: Lance 


L.L. Larkin 

In light of the receding market for Zimbabwean sculpture in “fine art” galleries 
in South Africa, one is prompted to ask if these markets are now excluding sculp- 
tors further afield as well. My research in the USA has shown that gallery owners 
believe that “the jury is still out [on Zimbabwean stone sculpture] because galleries 
and museums don’t know the good [sculpture] from the bad” (Anonymous gallery 
owner, personal communication, April 14, 2007); this owner added that fewer peo- 
ple are buying the sculpture as “fine art.” Unlike similar modern art movements 
elsewhere in Africa that were also encouraged by the post-independence govern- 
ment (e.g., for Senegal, see Harney 2004), internal buyers and indigenous art critics 
are lacking in Zimbabwe ( The Sunday Mail 2001). This lack has resulted in an envi- 
ronment in which domestic consumers are virtually non-existent ( Newsweek 1962, 
and confirmed by my own observations), despite efforts by the National Gallery to 
educate indigenous consumers (Sibanda 1986). As international art dealers are giv- 
ing up on exporting sculpture from Zimbabwe because of the difficulties that the 
Zimbabwean government places on them, and as most sculptors traveling out of 
the country to sell their sculptures in neighboring South Africa are limited by their 
own financial resources, the vibrancy of the art form is reduced by the conjoined 
constraints of making a living and selling ethnicity to do so. 

Since the birth of the stone sculpture industry in the late 1960s, sculptors have 
had to contend with a “cultural heritage” based on an “art of difference.” The white 
Rhodesian regime condemned the artwork, while European patrons highlighted 
this “heritage” as a selling point. Currently, as the foreign markets contract and 
Zimbabweans travel to South Africa to sell sculptures to tourists, “fine art” sculptors 
condemn the “cultural heritage” links to the ruins at Great Zimbabwe, attempting 
instead to carve links with the modern nation-state and global art world. 

Acknowledgments I owe a huge debt of gratitude for the continued support of my advisor, 
Alma Gottlieb, relating to all things African. I greatly appreciate the comments of Virginia 
Dominguez, Susan Frankenberg, Tim Landry, Angela Glaros, Junjie Chen, Bjorn Westgard, and 
Helaine Silverman during various stages of writing. Jonathan Zilberg has generously provided 
very useful feedback on my research and writing, as well as contacts in Zimbabwe. The Center 
for African Studies at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign was extremely helpful in 
preparation leading to my 2008 summer trip to southern Africa, providing several years of Foreign 
Language Area Studies Fellowships. My summer research was made possible by grants from the 
University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign’s anthropology department and the Beckman Institute. 
A Baldwin Scholarship provided partial support for my 2001 research. Many artists and gallery 
owners assisted me over the years and this space is entirely too small to thank them all. Tatenda, 
maita basa. 


1 . The research upon which this chapter is based encompasses interviews with sculptors, dealers, 
and gallery owners during 6 months in Zimbabwe in 2001 and 2 weeks in 2008, 1 1 weeks in 
South Africa in 2008, and ongoing research in the USA. 

2. Currently, the Shona account for 82% of the nation’s population (Central Intelligence Agency 

1 1 Carving the Nation 


3. The village continues today as a flagship for the art. In 2003 a museum was completed on-site, 
highlighting the first-generation sculptors who started sculpting here, and many of the artists 
who have lived and worked in Tengenenge since the start of the movement. 

4. For instance, the indigenous people had already been forcibly removed to inferior land so 
that white commercial farmers could grow cash crops such as tobacco and cotton (Alexander 
et al. 2000; Worby 2000). As in many colonies, ethnocentrism supported the white rulers’ 
belief that European techniques of agriculture would utilize the land more efficiently (Hughes 

5. Among dealers, curators, and some scholars, the term “ethnographic art” is used in contradis- 
tinction to “fine art” to designate art(ifacts) that are often displayed with a description that 
includes technical, social, or religious elaboration, whereas “fine art” is often displayed with 
the assumption that aesthetic merit alone is sufficient, and the artwork may stand on its own, 
with only the briefest of biographical information (Price 1991). 

6. The dearth of coverage on indigenous art is put in perspective by noting that the European 
population in cities and towns in 1969 was only 21% (Godwin and Hancock 1993), and was 
even less in rural areas. 

7. The “West and the rest” dichotomy has been problematized by many scholars as an over- 
simplification of power relations (e.g.. Said 1979; Dutton 1995; Loomba et al. 2005). In the 
context of this chapter, I use this category while acknowledging that “the West” and “Euro- 
American” are both short-hand for an art-historical ideology that is not limited to certain 
geographical regions or nation-states. In the context I discuss, for example, both categories 
include dealers in Europe, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and the USA. 

8. The UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage defines intan- 
gible heritage as “the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills — as well as 
the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith — that commu- 
nities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage” 
(UNESCO 2003:2). 

9. An Internet search on December 15, 2008 for “Shona sculpture” yielded 18,900 “hits,” 
demonstrating the continued use of ethnicity as a framing device for the movement; by con- 
trast, a search for “Zimbabwean sculpture” only found 1,880 “hits.” The difference of these 
numbers points to evidence of continued ethnic or tribal framing of the artwork. 

10. It should be noted that many sculptors in the country are a mix of nationalities due to 
immigration from Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, and Angola (Zilberg 1996). 

11. Zimbabwean “tourist art” thematically consists of realistic African busts, animals, and 
abstract family “flow” figures (see Kileff and Kileff 1996), while “fine art” is broader the- 
matically, relating to virtually any topic and is often abstracted to varying degrees (see Mor 
1987; Sultan 1999). 

12. In 2001 the USA passed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, which in 
combination with egregious civil rights abuses by the Zimbabwean government led to a flight 
in capital from the country, leading to inflation of 231 million percent and the collapse of 
Zimbabwean currency (Associated Foreign Press 2009; Biden et al. 2001). 

1 3 . This name is a pseudonym, as are all names in this chapter except those of publicly recognized 
figures. The artwork shown in this chapter as referenced in these interviews was not created 
by the person being interviewed. 

14. In periodizing the modernist movement I bear in mind the cautionary note urged by Loomba 
et al. (2005) to ground “eras” in a continuing history and acknowledging that there are many 
practices shared between modernism’s purported successor, postmodernism — including con- 
tinued peipetuation of ethnocentric discourse (Harney 2004:239). 

15. Similar to modernism, various professional circles have had different referents regarding post- 
modernism, depending on the discipline and location (e.g., for economics, see Joy and Sherry 
2003; for cultural studies, see Morley and Chen 1996; on art history, see Oguibe 2004a; for 
English, see Torgovnick 1990). 


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Chapter 12 

Afterword: El Pilar and Maya Cultural 
Heritage: Reflections of a Cheerful Pessimist 

Anabel Ford 

As we consider the contested landscape of cultural heritage, the facets elaborated 
in this volume are touch points for profitable discussion: social identity, political 
claims, national propaganda, ownership, respect, and interpretation. Yet, cultural 
heritage is fluid and constantly changing depending on the context of space and 
time. At the regional and global scale, the forces of homogeneity and unity reign, 
while at the national and local scales, heterogeneity and diversity prevail. With the 
growing world of tourism, cultural heritage has become a novelty realized through 
travel to the locale or its virtual substitute through print and moving media. Travel 
can be a positive opportunity that brings societies together to share common values 
of culture. But it also can generate tension when cultural values come into conflict. 
The case of the ancient Maya is significant on this point (Fig. 12.1). 

When, in 1983, I first encountered El Pilar, a major Maya center straddling the 
border of Belize and Guatemala, it was unmapped and unknown to the academic 
community (the name itself, El Pilar, harks back to Spanish explorations). Of course, 
it was a recognized place in the local area, one known to have an abundance of 
water, unusual in a region of absorbent limestone bedrock. There were lumber and 
chiclero camps at the site, again because of the water. Local villagers who traversed 
the area were familiar with its geography — hills of covered ancient temples and 
corozo palms that were exploited for fronds and nuts. The illegal antiquities mar- 
ket had impacted the site: when we mapped it, we enumerated some 65 looters’ 
trenches. But none of the local community or foreign explorers and archaeologists 
who traversed the terrain aiming for the interior sites — Tikal, Uaxactun, Yaxha, and 
Naranjo, all within a radius of 50 km — had discerned the archaeological qualities of 
El Pilar. At its most vibrant — the period from A.D. 600 to 900 — El Pilar had a pop- 
ulation of more than 20,000 people, who lived in a mosaic landscape of city homes 
and gardens. Through archaeology, a cultural heritage that was lost was found. What 
would be its future? And for which stakeholders? At the threshold of the twenty-first 
century, do we need yet another Maya temple as a travel destination? 

A. Ford (El) 

Department of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA 

H. Silverman (ed.), Contested Cultural Heritage, 

DOI 10.1007/978-l-4419-7305-4_12, © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 201 1 



A. Ford 

Fig. 12.1 The central lowland Maya area with El Pilar and other major centers located. (Anabel 

A century ago, a romantic interpretation of the ancient Maya was constructed by 
scholars for Chichen Itza. This was a time when, worldwide, water was abundant, 
natural resources seemed endless, and tropical forests appeared as the last terrestrial 
frontier. The Carnegie Institute of Washington was explicit that Chichen Itza needed 
to be promoted as a mecca of travel to arouse public interest and support archaeol- 
ogy (Sullivan 1991:82-84). Across time and space, the promotion of the Maya has 
become homogenized with the iconic Chichen style, even as archaeologists working 
in the Maya region find more diversity (Webster 2002). And just as more responsi- 
ble tourism venues are emerging and the desire for unique destinations is expanding, 
the Maya tourism fashion has taken the iconic Castillo at Chichen Itza and made it 
the narrative. So successful is this icon that, in March 2006, a meeting of NAFTA 
leaders (Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, United States President George 
W. Bush, and Mexican President Vicente Fox) used the Castillo at Chichen as the 

1 2 Afterword 


The Maya tourism narrative — emphasizing great temples and spectacular art — 
leaves little room for consideration about how the ancient Maya prospered within 
the tropical forest that so challenged early explorers. Yet careful reflection is needed 
(Ford and Flavrda 2006): what of the contemporary Maya who continue to live in 
their traditional settlements with forest gardens, at the periphery of their developing 
nations of Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize? Their gardens contain all the dominant 
plants of the Maya forest, 90% of which are classified by economic botanists as 
useful (Campbell et al. 2006). 

Research has shown that local Maya communities have a perspective on them- 
selves and tourism (Ford 1998) that can correct the impression of foreign visitors 
that the Maya failed. They offer a link in the same space from the flamboyant pros- 
perity of the Classic Maya of the ancient past to the sustained activities of the 
traditional Maya households of today. Indeed, rarely is the connection made that 
the language of the Maya hieroglyphs (Macri and Ford 1997) is the same language 
spoken by contemporary Maya farmers — a language embedded in the forest and its 
resources (Atran 1993). Instead, the contemporary Maya are too often cavalierly 
blamed for the destruction of the Maya forest. How can this paradox be reconciled? 

As cultural heritage has been transformed into global currency with tourism, we 
see more emphasis on political ends, often privileging the foreigner while ignor- 
ing local stakeholders. Recently, particularly in the setting of archaeology, there has 
been an explicit effort to promote public outreach, local participation, and commu- 
nity inclusion in the development of visitor destinations. The power in shaping the 
narrative needs to encompass multivocality. Since cultural heritage is always fluid 
and open to contest, it provides alternative space for social, cultural, and traditional 
practice that can begin to integrate other equally valid perspectives. 

Political and national claims are historically rooted, and often entrenched and 
resistant to change in the short term, but inevitably change occurs in the long term. 
My project at El Pilar has emphasized the development of a participatory process 
involving scholars and the local stakeholders. Claims can be negotiated, as my work 
at El Pilar has demonstrated (Ford 1998). The claims may be found within the con- 
text of national and social space, in museums, or in land tenure. How information 
is generated and distributed impacts the story of a cultural heritage. This is where 
collaboration is most critical. There are many dimensions to participation and to 
the evaluation of stakeholders. The importance of conceptually sharing ownership, 
respecting diverse views, and engaging varied interpretations plays out most clearly 
in this arena. Fundamental to my project is the recognition that when social identi- 
ties change, a provision for the performance of identities can embrace the change. 
One successful venue of the project has been the promotion of traditional village 
living arts (Ford et al. 2005; Ford 2006). 

Of special promise for the future is the concept of Peace Parks (Ali 2007), which 
has transformed nationalist interests, creating spaces where contest can be concil- 
iatory. The Peace Park initiative for binational El Pilar highlights the ancient Maya 
site as a shared cultural and natural heritage of two nations, Belize and Guatemala 
(Fig. 12.2). Today, El Pilar is the heart of the 5,000-acre El Pilar Archaeological 


A. Ford 

The El Pilar Archaeological Reserve 
For Maya Flora and Fauna 

Fig. 12.2 The El Pilar archaeological reserve of Belize and Guatemala. (Anabel Ford) 

Reserve for Maya Flora and Fauna, which links Belize and Guatemala and cele- 
brates the culture and nature of the Maya forest. Where the cultural heritage of the 
ancient Maya is a critical component of tourism in both countries and the natu- 
ral heritage of the Maya forest is globally recognized as a target for conservation, 
the El Pilar model can resonate locally, nationally, regionally, and internationally. 
Simultaneously, the concept of Peace Parks acknowledges the sovereignty of each 
country while underscoring the regional quality of the cultural and natural heritage 
of the Maya, both of which transcend national boundaries. 

A future without contestation? Difficult but possible. Across the globe there has 
been recognition of the plight of our natural resources and a push to promote biolog- 
ical diversity. I can envision a similar recognition for the value and qualities of the 
world’s cultural heritage. We are a global society and, as a result, there is a move- 
ment toward increasing cultural homogeneity. Awareness of the intangible cultural 
heritage in language, land use, and other furtive forms provides a platform for cel- 
ebrating cultural diversity, as validated by UNESCO’s 2001 Universal Declaration 
on Cultural Diversity and UNESCO’s 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the 
Intangible Heritage. Humans have occupied the earth for millions of years, and 
over that course of time we have transformed the natural resources of our space to 
our needs. Explicit recognition of the value of diversity in our natural heritage is a 
starting point to promote the values inherent in the diversity of our cultures. 

1 2 Afterword 



Ali, Saleem H., ed. 

2007. Peace parks: Conservation and conflict resolution. Global environmental accord: Strategies 
for sustainable and institutional innovation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 

Atran, Scott. 

1993. Itza Maya tropical agro-forestry. Current Anthropology 34: 633-700. 

Campbell, David G„ Anabel Ford, Karen Lowell, lay Walker, Jeffrey K. Lake, Constanza Ocampo- 
Raeder, Andrew Townesmith, and Michael Balick. 

2006. The feral forests of the eastern Peten. In Time and complexity in the neotropical lowlands , 
ed. C. Erickson and W. Balee, 21-55. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. 

Ford, Anabel. 

1998. El Pilar landscape: Gateway between two nations, management plan for El 
Pilar. Mesa Redonda II. 
Introduction.php (Accessed 13 September 2010) 18 pp. 

2006. Adaptive management and the community of El Pilar: A philosophy of resilience for the 
Maya forest. In Of the past, for the future: Integrating archaeology and conservation, ed. N. 
Agnew and J. Bridgland, 105-112. Washington, DC: The Getty Institute. 

Ford, Anabel, and Megan Havrda. 

2006. Archaeology under the canopy: Imagining the Maya of El Pilar. In Tourism, consumption 
and representation: Narratives of place and self, ed. K. Meethan, A. Anderson, and S. Miles, 
67-93. Wallingford, CT: CAB International. 

Ford, Anabel, Melanie C. S. Smith, and John M. Morris. 

2005. Community integration and adaptive management at El Pilar. In Archaeological investiga- 
tions in the eastern Maya lowlands: Papers of the 2004 Belize archaeology symposium, vol. 2, 
Research reports in Belizean archaeology, ed. Jaime Awe, J. Morris, S. Jones, and C. Helmke, 
459^-70. Belmopan, Belize: Institute of Archaeology, National Institute of Culture and History. 

Macri, Martha J., and Anabel Ford, eds. 

1997. The language of Maya hieroglyphs. San Francisco, CA: Pre-Columbian Art Research 

Sullivan, Paul. 

1991. Unfinished conversations: Mayas and foreigners between two wars. Berkeley, CA/Los 
Angeles, CA: University of California Press. 

Webster, David L. 

2002. The fall of the ancient Maya: Solving the mystery of the Maya collapse. London: Thames 
& Hudson. 

Subject Index 


Abbasid dynasty, 51-52, 185 

c Abd al-Rahman I, 51, 64 

c Abd al-Rahman III, 58 

Aboriginals, 16-17 

Abulafia, Samuel Halevi, 61-63 

Acropolis, 156-157 

Acropolis Museum, 31, 159, 164-167 

Act of Partition, 1921, 74-75 

Act of Union, 1801,77 

Adams, Gerry (President of Sinn Fein), 80, 85 

Adriatic Sea, 25, 1 14 

African American communities, 5-7, 17, 

24, 30, 205-208, 212, 217-218, 
220-222, 225-226 

African American tourists, 7, 30, 206-208, 212 
African burial ground, 5 
African objects, 14 

African slave trade/traders, 206-211, 214-215, 
217-220, 222, 224-225, 227-229 
al-Andalus, 51, 54-55, 64 
Albania, see The Balkans, management of 
cultural heritage in 
Alexander the Great, 26, 185 
Alexandretta, 176 
al-majma 'al- ‘ilmi al- ‘arabi 

(Arab Academy), 175 
al-Qaeda, 55-56 

See also 9/11 Incident influencing 
paramilitary murals in Belfast 
Amazonian warriors, 212, 229 
Ancient Maya region, 11, 21, 261-264 
Andalusian Islamic culture, 54 
Angkor, 22 

Anglicans, 128, 135-137 

Anglo-Irish Agreement, 100 

Anglo-Normans, 72, 104 

Anglo-Norman Belfast Castle, 73 

An Gorta Mor, Irish Famine of 1845-1849, 87 

Anti-George Bush murals, 88 
Antiquities Department, 144 
Antiquities Service, 142-143, 147, 153 
Apollonia, Greek colony, 115, 117-118 
Apollonia’s necropolis, 117-118 
Arab Muslims, 5 1 

Archaeological area of Rome, 200, 202 
Archaeological heritage management, 12,18 
Archaeologies (publication), 10 
Art Loss, 145 
Asmara, Eritrea, 202 
Attualismo, 197-198 

“Auction block”, Slave Route, Benin, 211-213, 
219-220, 224 
Augustus, 202-203 
Austria, 153, 196 

Authenticity, of Slave Route, Benin, 223-227 
authority, 226-227 
originality, 225-226 
verisimilitude, 224-225 
Avondale People’s Market, 245-246 
Ayman al-Zawahri (Osama bin Laden’s 
second-in-command), 55 
Aymara inhabitants, 23 
Ayodhya tragedy, 8 
Azbakiya museum, Egypt, 142-143 


Babri Masjid, Ayodhya, India, 8 
Bajraktars, “banner chiefs”, 120 
Balikh River, 172, 185 
Balkan Peninsula, 109-122 
The Balkans, management of cultural heritage 
in, 109-110, 121-122 
Albania, archaeological and ethno- 
historical research in, 114-121 
Albanian land claims vs. former 
Yugoslav republics, 115 
Apollonia, 115, 117-118 

H. Silverman (ed.), Contested Cultural Heritage , 

DOI 10.1007/978-1-4419-7305-4 © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 201 1 



Subject Index 

The Balkans (cont.) 

bajraktars, banner chiefs, 120 
blood feuds, 118, 121 
“Bosnian Pyramid”, 1 17-118 
carved stone block turned altar, 117 
change of Albanian place names to 
Greek, 114 

construction of road from Shkoder to 
Theth in Shala, paving way for 
economic development, 120 
demolition of churches and mosques by 
communist officials, 1 17 
Doric column, 115 
Dyrrachium, 115 
ecotourism, 120-121 
evidence of temples, 1 1 5 
freedom of inter-regional 
movement, 120 
frontier zone, 114-115 
government officials charged with 
managing and developing 
tourism, 121 

heterodoxy, 111, 113, 119, 121 
hill forts, 114 

Hoxha’s "bunkerization” and key policy 
to turn Albania into world’s only 
completely atheist state, 116-117 
hybrid cultures, 114-115 
Illyrian tribes, 1 14-1 16 
isolation, Shala’s primary survival 
mechanism, 120 
Kanuni i Leke Dukagjinit (oral 
customary law code), 118, 121 
Kardulias’ concept of “negotiated 
peripherality”, 119 
language, 1 14 

looting in Apollonia’s necropolis, 118 
Mallakastra Regional Archaeological 
Project (MRAP), 115, 117-118 
mercenaries, 119-120 
northern Albanian tribes, 118-1 19 
northern vs. southern Albanian tribes, 

Orthodox Slavic Montenegro, 119 
orthodoxy, 111, 114-117, 119-121 
Ottoman conquest and administration, 
115, 119 

outstanding natural beauty, 1 20 
people of Shala, origin, 1 19-120 
religious prohibition and death 
penalty, 117 

relocation of physical structures, 1 15 

retribalization and radical 
reorientation, 121 
Shala Valley Project (SVP), 118 
soapstone bunker ashtrays, 116 
topology, 114 

totalitarian dictatorship, 116, 121 
trading of guns and ammunitions, 1 20 
tribal councils, 121 
tribal oral customary law code, 

118, 121 

tribal system in Shala almost extinct 
due to communism, 1 20 
world-systems theory, 119 
crossroads of various cultures, 109 
factors producing heritage structures, 
agency, 110-111 
history, 113 
imagination, 112 
memory, 112-113 
national identity and ethnic origins, 

generation/intersection of heritage 
structures, 110 
Ballykilcline, Ireland, 24 
Bamiyan Buddhas, 15, 149 
Banner mural at Cluan Place, Belfast, 97-98 
Barracoons, 214, 220 
Ba’th Party, 180 
Baths of Caracalla, 199-200 
Battle of the Boyne, 1690, 72-73, 77-80 
Battle of the Somme, 1916, 73-74, 93 
BBC, 126 
Bedouins, 185-187 

Belfast, mural tradition and aestheticized 
geographies of conflict in 
anti-George Bush murals, 88 
artwork of Jim Fitzpatrick influencing 
nationalist murals, 90 
Battle of the Boyne, 72-73, 77-80 
Bloody Sunday murals, 79, 89 
celebration and intimidation influencing 
murals, 77-90 

allegations of collaboration between 
other alleged ethnonationalist 
extremists, 88-89 

Battle of the Boyne and Siege of Derry 
commemorated yearly, 77-78 
celebrations that gave rise to murals of 
King Billy, 79 
drug trafficking, 85 
Flags and Emblems Act, 80 
hunger strike, 80-8 1 

Subject Index 


incarceration, 80-8 1 
loyalist mural depicting William of 
Orange defeating King James at the 
battle of the Boyne, 78-79 
loyalist mural of “Eddie”, 84 
mural of balaclava-clad gunman, 83 
mural of Bobby Sands, 81-82 
new direction in mural art, 85 
Orange Order, 78 
parade season, 79 
paramilitary murals, 82-85 
rapid social change with the Act of 
Union, 1801, 77-78 
republican mural located 
in Ardoyne, 85 
sectarian military activity, 82 
territorial dispute within UFF/UDA, 
summer 2000, 84 
“triumph of defeat”, 80 
Union Jack, 78, 80, 93, 100 
William of Orange, 78 
heritage in mural-making, politics of, 

children involved in mural-making, 

community seeking to reinvent itself as 
neither Irish nor British, 93 
Good Friday Agreement, 93 
Kelly (Mo Chara) and Devenney’s 
paintings, 90-92 

legitimation of Irish culture, 93-95 
loyalist mural at “Freedom Corner”, 
East Belfast, depicting Cuchulainn 
as an Ulster hero, 94-95 
loyalist mural depicting a Scottish 
piper, 94 

prevalence of Irish language in 
republican murals, 92-93 
ubiquitous Union Jacks, 93 
history behind mural-making, political 
aspirations, 72 

Anglo-Norman Belfast Castle, 73 
Battle of the Boyne, 1690, 73 
Battle of the Somme, 73-74 
Belfast incorporated by the Crown in 
1613, 73 

Catholic Emancipation, 73 
Charles Stewart Parnell, 73 
Daniel O’Connell, 73 
declared as Republic of Ireland, 74 
defeat of King James II, 73 
Easter Rising of 1916, 73, 79, 88 
first “peace wall” erected, 1969, 75 

Free State of Ireland created by Act of 
Partition, 1921, 74 
General Post Office in Dublin 
seized, 73 

Henry Grattan (Anglo-Irish elite), 73 
Henry II’s conquest, 72 
home rule in 1880s, 73 
Lowland Scottish “undertakers” cruelty, 

modern Irish nationalism, 73 
Nine Years War, 73 
Patrick Pearse, 73 

Penal Laws to secure Protestants, 73 
Protestant Ascendency shaken in early 
twentieth century, 73-74 
Protestants vs. Catholics, 74-75 
republican movement martyrs, 73 
settlers attracted by industrial revolution 
and prosperity, 74 
shipment of Catholics as slaves, 72 
Sir Arthur Chichester, 73 
Theobald Wolfe Tone, 73 
“the Troubles”, 74 

Tudor and Cromwellian reconquests, 72 
United Irishmen, 73 
William III of Orange, 1650-1702, 73 
9/11 incident influencing paramilitary 
murals, 95 

instrument of anticolonial discourse, 80 
Irish mythology in murals, 90 
Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), 79 
as mode of communication and 
warning, 80 

mural depicting violence at Holy Cross 
Primary School in Ardoyne 
(2001-2002) and 1957 crisis, 89-90 
nationalist mural, 88 
Northern Ireland Assembly, 69 
origin of, 69 
popular themes, 87-88 
re-imaging Belfast, 95-100 

banner mural at Cluan Place, 97-98 
Lower Shankill mural dedicated to 
Oliver Cromwell, 99-100 
loyalist mural in Lower Shankill, 97 
mural replication of Guernica by 
Devenny and Ervine, 102-103 
“red hand of Ulster” mural, 98-99 
“Re-Imaging Communities 
Programme”, to replace 
paramilitary murals with positive 
cultural images, 95-96, 102 
symbolism in murals, 96 


Subject Index 

Belfast (cont.) 

religion and politics, 75-77 

“Catholic” vs. “Republican”, 76 
internal division and persecution among 
Protestant’s resulting in emigration 
to the Americas, 77 
land confiscation, marking first 
religious differentiation, 76 
loyalists vs. unionists, 77 
nationalist murals as a marker of Irish 
identity, 76-77 

republican murals/muralists, 73, 77, 80-81, 
85-92, 96, 98, 104 
role of murals 

agents and subjects of history, 7 1 
depiction of Irish cultural heritage, 70 
ephemeral essence, 72 
“men-with-guns” paramilitary 

archetype, depicting violence of the 
past, 70 

new discourse, 70-71 
politicized artifacts, 72 
subject of forthcoming Hollywood 
documentary, 70 
unique landscape of tourist 
attraction, 70 

Ruben Ortiz-Torres, Mexican muralist, 86 
Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), 79 
use of graffiti, 79-80 

visual links to other allegedly dispossessed 
and colonized cultures, 88 
voicing authenticity, 100-103 

misconceptions of murals, 101-102 
mural at Cluan Place portraying 

betrayal experienced by Protestants 
of Nothem Ireland with Anglo-Irish 
Agreement, 100-101 

Belfast Telegraph , 79, 83-85, 95, 101-104 
Believers and skeptics of ghosts, 126, 134 
Belize, 27, 33, 261-264 
Benhura, Dominic (second-generation 
sculptor), 240 

Benin bronzes, British Museum, 14, 163, 237 

Benin, West Africa, 30, 205-229 

Berat, Albania, 1 16 

Berlin Museum, 14, 146-147, 153 

“Better the Grave than Slavery”, 97 

Bin Laden, Osama, 55 

Bishop of Cordoba, 57 

Bishop’s directive, 2007, Cathedral-Mosque of 
Cordoba, 59 
“Black Atlantic”, 206 
Bloc Party approach, 177, 179 

Blood feuds, 118, 121 
Bloody Sunday, 79, 89 
Blue and gold glass tesserae, Cordoba, 53 
Bobby Sands, 81-82, 104 
Borchardt, Ludwig, 147 
“Bosnian Pyramid”, 117 
Brazil, 30, 208,210-211 
“Bride”, bust of African queen, tourist art, 247 
British Army, 73, 75, 80-81, 86, 89, 103 
British ghost tourism, re-imagining the national 
past, 125, 137-138 
in contemporary Britain, 125-126 
believers and skeptics, 126 
cities that operate, 125-126 
cost, 126 

Living TV (Paranormal Channel), 126 
momentum of increasing 
popularity, 126 
popular forms, 125 
Harry Potter. 138 

interpretation of British secularism, 

conflict between Vikings and Christians, 

mythico-history, 132-133 
Reformation battles between Catholics 
and Protestants, 131-133 
learning about ghosts through the past, 

historical truths, 131 
illicit affair between nun and monk, 1 34 
lacking familiarity with the past, 1 29 
Martindale story, 130 
Percy’s (Earl of Northumberland) 
narrative, 133 
pseudoscience, 130 
range of religious conflicts, 131-133 
Roman ghosts, 130 
St. Margaret, 134 
willingness to maintain an open 
mind, 130 

Most Haunted, TV program, 138 
power of ghost hunting science, narrating 
the, 128 

progress of the nation, 133-135 

ability of Neo-Pagans, Druids, and 
Wiccans practicing spirituality in 
public spaces curtailed, 133 
Anglicanism, 135-137 
lack of factual evidence, 134 
the Queen as an ultimate national 
symbol, 135 
tolerance, 134-135 

Subject Index 


questions of national belonging, ghostly 

absence of contemporary religions, 

blacks vi. British, 136-137 
claims of state religiosity and 
secularism, 137 
repository of ghosts, 136 
superiority of science over religion, 

technoscience spirituality, defined, 137 
in York, 126-128 

Ghost Cellar at Treasurer’s House, 126 
Haunted (haunted house), 1 26 
most haunted city in the world (BBC 
report), 126 

narratives of discovery and the past, 
Shambles, 127 
York Minster, 127 

British secularism, interpretation of, 131-133 
B-Specials, 82 
Bulaq Museum, 143 
Bunkers, Albania, 116, 122 
Bust of Nefertiti, 14, 30-31, 145-146, 
145-148, 163 
debated ownership, 147 
discovered by Borchardt in 1912, 147 
Egypt’s requests for repatriation, 146-148 
fitting onto a modem bronze body, 148 
initially displayed at Dr. Simon’s 
home, 147 

moved to Berlin National Museum 
in 1920, 147 

offer of other valuable pieces in exchange 
for, 147 

return thwarted by Hitler, 147 
UNESCO intervention, 147 
Butrint return, statues of Artemis and 
Apollo, 163 


CAAR, see Central Archaeological Area of 
Rome (CAAR) 

Capitoline museum, 197, 202 
Carnegie Institute of Washington, 262 
Carved stone block turned altar in Shtyllas, 
southern Albania, 1 1 7 

Castillo at Chichen Itza (used as backdrop of 
NAFTA meeting in 2006), 261-262 
Cathedral-Mosque of Cordoba 
courtyard, 61 
exterior view, 55 

interior of original prayer hall, 52 
mihrab, 53-54 

Catholic Church, 56-58, 63, 76-77, 99, 104 
Catholic Emancipation, 73 
“Catholic” vi. “Republican”, 76 
Caucasian, see Native American Indian 
“ Cearta teanga, cearta daonna “language 
rights are human rights”, 93 
Celebrations, 26, 56, 69, 72-73, 77-90, 219 
Central America, 21, 27, 32 
Central Archaeological Area of Rome 
(CAAR), 199-202 

Champaner-Pavagadh, Gujarat, India, 17 
Champollion, Jean Francois, 144, 146, 153 
Channel 4 (British TV broadcaster), 167 
Charles III Bourbon, King of Naples, 197 
Chichen Itza, 262 

Chichester, Sir Arthur, 1563-1625, 73 
Children involved in mural-making, 90-92 
Chirac, Jacques, 27-28 
Chitsinga, Blessing (Zimbabwean sculptor), 
245, 247 
Chorti Maya, 27 

Christians, 54, 60, 64, 131-133, 135, 152 
Christian sites vs. Islamic sites, 1 1 
Chunchucmil ruins, 21 
Church of San Benito, Cordoba, 62 
Church of San Vicente, Cordoba, 56-60 
Church of St. John, Damascus, 56 
The Circus Maximus, 1 99-200 
Cities of Light: The Rise and Fall of Islamic 
Spain (video), 63 

Cities that operate ghost tours, 125-126 
“Civil and Religious Liberties for All”, 97 
Civil War, 9, 21 
Classic Period Maya, 21 
“Classic” Zimbabwean sculptural artwork, 243 
Cloth banners and uniforms, 78, 130 
Cluan Place, Belfast, 97-98, 100-101 
Coach Fellas. 11-12 
Colonial Williamsburg, 5-7 
The Colosseum, 199-202 
Columbia River, 6 
Communist Party in Albania, 116 
Conflict between Vikings and Christians, 

Construction of road from Shkoder to Theth 
in Shala, paving way for economic 
development, 120 

Consuming Tradition, Manufacturing 

Heritage. Global Norms and Urban 
Forms in the Age of Tourism, 1 1 


Subject Index 

Contested cultural heritage, historiography, 1 , 
7-8, 9, 33-35 
dynamics, 9 
intersections, 29-33 
new millennium apprehensions, 10-29 
heritage and politics, 24-28 
illegal antiquities, 13-15 
intangible heritage, 28-29 
local, national, and international 
deployment, 20-24 
manufacture, marketing, and 
consumption, 10-13 
public outreach, 15-17 
value and UNESCO, 18-20 
paradigm realization, 5-9 
paradigm shifting, 1^1 

Babri Masjid/Ayodhya tragedy, 8 
Balkans War, 1991-1995, 8 
New Age Druid cultists vs. 

site-protecting police, 8 
New Salem, Illinois, Lincoln clash, 8 
Turkish invasion of Cyprus, 1974, 8 
Contested heritage sites 

Babri Masjid, Ayodhya, India, 8 
Balkans, 109-122 
Belfast, 69-103 
Benin, 205-229 
Britain, 109-122 
Cordoba, 51-65 
Egypt, 141-153 
El Pilar, Maya, 261-264 
Greece, 155-168 
Italy, 193-203 
Maasai, Kenya, 9 
New Salem, Illinois, 9 
Stonehenge, England, 8 
Syria, 171-190 
Zimbabwe, 233-253 
Continuity IRA, 82 

Convention Concerning the Protection of 
the World Cultural and Natural 
Heritage, 1972, 18 

Convention for the Safeguarding of the 
Intangible Heritage, 2003, 28 
Convivencia, social harmony in Cordoba 
c Abd al-Rahman I, 64 
al-Andalus, 64 

Islamic-Christian negotiations, 65 
Pact of c Umar, ca. 637, 64 
treaty by Ibn c Asakir, 64 
treaty of Tudmir, 713, 64 
Copan, Honduras, 11, 21, 27 

Cordoba Cathedral-Mosque, archaeological 

abstract symbols, 58 

aisles and apses, 57 

carved column capitals, 57 

crosses, 57 

figural sculpture, 57 

floor revealing pebble mosaic, 57 

fragments of altars, 57 

Islamic fragments, 58 

mason’s signatures, plaster impressions, 

58, 60 

names inscribed, 58 
Visigothic fragments, 57, 63 
Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, 20 
. .Cradle of Culture, Land of Nature. . ”, 26 
Crete, 9, 12, 27 

CRM: The Journal of Heritage 
Stewardship, 10 

Crossroads of various cultures, see The 

Balkans, management of cultural 
heritage in 

Ctichulainn murals, 90, 94-96 
Cultural anthropology, 1, 4, 9, 16, 28, 163, 
205, 225, 249 
“Cultural landscape”, 4 
Cultural objects, 14, 162, 167 
Cultural patrimony, 2, 22, 162, 167-168, 

Curved triangular faces, Zimbabwean 
artwork, 25 1 

Cyrene, 26 


Daagbo Hounon Tomadjlehoukpon (supreme 
chief of Vodun), 207, 209 
Dahomean kings, 210-212, 216, 229 
Damascene Hall, 177-179 
Dantissa (auction block), 210-211 
Dark Continent, 4 
“Defending the Community”, 97 
“Definitions for Cultural Heritage”, 240 
Deir ez-Zor, 185-186 
Demolition of churches and mosques by 

communist officials in Albania, 1 1 7 
Department for the Repatriation of Stolen 
Antiquities, 145 
Derry, 79, 89 

De Souza, Francisco Felix (Portuguese slave 
trader), 208, 210-212, 214 
Dhimmis, 64 

Dictators, 25-26, 109-1 10, 116, 121, 206 
Directorate-General of Antiquities and 

Museums, Syria, 172, 179-181, 189 

Subject Index 


Director of Arts and Crafts in the Ministry 
of Youth, Sport, and Culture, 
Zimbabwe, 241 

Discovery of “Bosnian Pyramid” by 
Osmanagic, Semir, 117 
Discovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum, 197 
Disenfranchised people, 3, 5, 10, 12, 17, 23, 
74, 80, 244 

Disenfranchised stakeholder groups, 15-17 
African Americans, 17 
Australian Aboriginals, 16-17 
Dissonant heritage, 7 
Divis Flat, Belfast, 100 
Door of No Return, Slave Route, Benin, 
217-218, 223,226 
Doric column, Albania, 115 
Drug trafficking, 80, 82, 84-85, 104 
Druids, 8, 133 

Dura Europus, excavations at (Syria), 176, 178 
Dyrrachium, Greek colony, 115 

Easter Rising of 1916, 73, 79, 88 
The Economist, 1 9 
Ecotourism, 120-121 
Edinburgh, 125-126, 131 
Effendi, Hakiakine (engineer of Egyptian 
museum), 142 

Egypt’s past, collecting and repatriating, 
141-142, 152-153 
iconic artifacts, 145-148 

body of King Ramesses I, 145 
bust ofNefertiti, 145-148 
Rosetta Stone, 145-146 
law and problems of trade in Pharaonic 
Decree of 1869, 142 
Decree of 1891, 143 
encouraged by Mariette, 142-143 
Law 12 of 1897, 143 
Law 14 of 1912, 143 
Law 215 of 1951, 143 
Law of 1983, 142 
new law being drafted, 144 
Order of 1880, 142 
Ordinance of 1835, 142 
repatriation of objects, 144-145 
Schultz, Parry and Johnson involved in 
illegal trade, 144 

Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Egyptian 
Department, 144 
national identity, 150-152 

connection to the past, 151-152 

National Courthouse at Maadi, linking 
the contemporary to the 
ancient, 151 

Pharaonic past used as logos in stamps, 
currency, newspaper mastheads, 
etc., 151 

relocation of the statue of 
Ramesses II, 152 
SaadZaghloul mausoleum, 150 
other artifacts 

calcite ducks, 144 

fragments of the tomb of Seti I, 144 

funerary mask, 145 

mummy, 145 

obelisks, 153 

personal hunting ground for antiquities, 

poverty and fundamentalism, arguments 
against restitution, 149-150 
issue of fatwa, 149-150 
looting via war and local/regional 
crisis, 150 

poor museum conditions, 149 
tourism, 148-149 

Museum of Stolen Things, 148-149 
prime source of income, 148 
special displays of returned objects 
attracting tourists, 148-149 
Ejido (Mayan national land grant system), 22 
“Elgin marbles”, 157-160 
Elmina Castle, Ghana, 7, 9, 206, 208, 224 
El Mundo Maya, 1 1 
El Pilar and Maya cultural heritage 
abundance of water, 261-262 
ancient Maya region, 261-262 
Chichen Itza, 262 
concept of Peace Parks, 263-264 
El Pilar Archaeological Reserve for Maya 
Flora and Fauna, 263-264 
geography, 261 

iconic Castillo at Chichen Itza (used as 
backdrop of NAFTA meeting in 
2006), 261-262 

Maya hieroglyphs connected to the present 
vernacular language, 263 
shared cultural and natural heritage of two 
nations, Belize and Guatemala, 
stakeholders, 263 
temples, corozo palms, nuts and 
art, 261,263 

traditional settlements with forest 
gardens, 263 


Subject Index 

El Pilar and Maya (cont.) 

UNESCO’s 2001 Universal Declaration on 
Cultural Diversity, 264 
UNESCO’s 2003 Convention for the 
Safeguarding of the Intangible 
Heritage, 264 

El Pilar Archaeological Reserve for Maya 
Flora and Fauna, 263-264 
El Salvador, 27 

Ename Charter for the Interpretation of 
Cultural Heritage Sites (2005), 
222-223, 227 
English Heritage, 8-9 
Eritrea, 202 

Esposizione Universale Roma (EUR), 193, 202 
The Ethics of Collecting Cultural Property, 14 
Ethnographic art, 32, 237, 239-240, 253 
Euphrates River, 172, 185, 187 
EUR, see Esposizione Universale Roma (EUR) 
European buyers of African slaves, 208, 

European Landscape Convention, 4 
Excavations, 5, 21, 56-57, 59-60, 117, 
142-144, 147, 162, 165, 173, 
176-180, 183, 186-187, 196-197, 
199, 202-203, 215 
The Excluded Past, 7-8 
Exhibiting Cultures, 4 


Fa£ade of Qasr al-Hayr al Gharbi, Syria, 

176, 178 

Falls Road, West Belfast, 70, 75, 77, 81-82, 
88, 90, 93, 100, 102-103 
Fascism and imperial re-creation in Italy, 

Fascist remodeling of classical landscapes, 

Fatwa (religious legal opinion) in Egypt, 

Ferdinand III of Castile, 53-54 
Fine art, 32, 237, 239-240, 242-245, 247-250, 

1 962 First International Congress of African 
Culture in Rhodesia, 237 
The First International Festival of Vodun Arts 
and Culture, 210 

First “peace wall” erected, 1969, Belfast, 75 
Fitzpatrick’s artwork influencing nationalist 
murals, 78-79, 90, 92 
Flags and Emblems Act, 80 
“Flow sculptures” of abstract families, 251 
Fogu, Claudio, 198 

Fora of Augustus and Nerva, 202 
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 
(FYROM), 26 
Forum of Trajan, 202 
“Freedom Corner”, East Belfast, mural 

depicting Cuchulainn as an Ulster 
hero, 94-95 

Freedom of inter-regional movement by 
bajraktars in Albania, 120 
Free Festival, Stonehenge, 8-9 
French holdings in Syria, 176 
French Mandate, 1918-1946, 174, 176 
French-Turkish war, 157 
Frontier zone, Albania, 1 14-1 15 
Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia 
(FARC), 89 
Funerary vault, 202 
Futurismo, 197-198 


Gable murals, 70-71, 78, 81, 86, 100 
Gaddafi, Muammar, 26 
Gaelic seanachi, storytellers, 81 
Garcia, Alan, 15 

General Director of Museums and 
Excavations, 143 

General Post Office in Dublin seized, 73 
Genoese traders, 24 
Genographic Project, 29 
Gentile, Giovanni, 197 
Ghadames, 26 

Ghost Cellar at Treasurer's House, 126, 130 
Ghost hunters’ narratives (Britain) 

conflict between Vikings and Christians, 

house haunted by ghosts of the plague, 1 27 
illicit affair between nun and monk, 134 
Martindale, 130 

Percy (Earl of Northumberland), 133 
Reformation battles between Catholics and 
Protestants, 131-133 
Roman ghosts, 130 

Yorkshire dinner party tragedy, 127-128 
Ghost hunting, 125, 127-130, 133-137 
Giza Plateau, 3 1 

Global Heritage Fund (GHF), 12-13 
Global tourism industry, 12, 18, 27 
God’s Crucible, 63 

Gomaa, Ali, see Grand Mufti of Egypt 
Good Friday Agreement, 93 
Goree Island, 224 

Government officials, managing and 

developing tourism in Albania, 121 

Subject Index 


Graffiti, 79-80 
Granada, 54—55, 57, 63 
Grand Mufti of Egypt, 149-150 
Grattan, Henry (Anglo-Irish elite), 73 
The Great Mosque of Cordoba 

c Abd al-Rahman I, architect of, 51 
al-Qaeda, 55-56 
Andalusian Islamic culture, 54 
Arab Muslims, 51 
archaeology, 56 

acquisition of Church of St. John, 56 
existence of Church of San Vicente, 

Hernandez’s excavations justifying 
legitimacy of Church’s 
possession, 59 

Visigothic and Roman materials, 57 
architectural narrative, 51-54 
blue and gold glass tesserae, 53 
Cities of Light: The Rise and Fall of 
Islamic Spain (video), 63 
expansion, 52-53 
exterior view, 55 
God’s Crucible, 63 
insertion of gothic cathedral choir, 

“Moorish” themes, 63 
Moroccan-style tea houses, 63 
mosaic mihrab, 52-53 
The Ornament of the World, 63 
plan of stages from 786-1010, 53 
prayer hall, 52 
qibla wall, 52-53 
roof, 52 

social harmony, 63-64 
spas with zellij tile and cusped arches, 
Alhambra style, 63 
voussoirs, 53 

Ayman al-Zawahri, video release on 
reconquest, 55 
Bishop’s directive, 2007, 59 
Cathedral-Mosque, archaeological remains 
abstract symbols, 58 
aisles and apses, 57 
carved column capitals, 57 
crosses, 57 
figural sculpture, 57 
floor revealing pebble mosaic, 57 
fragments of altars, 57 
Islamic fragments, 58 
mason’s signatures, plaster impressions, 
58, 60 

names inscribed, 58 

Visigothic fragments, 57, 63 
Cathedral-Mosque of Cordoba, 52 
courtyard, 61 
exterior view, 55 

interior of original prayer hall, 52 
mihrab, 53-54 

Church’s mission to safeguard and inspire 
culture and art, 59-60 
Church-Synagogue “El Transito”, Toledo, 

acquisition by Spanish government, 62 
conversion into church. Church of San 
Benito, 62 

Hebrew and Arabic inscriptions, 62 
Samuel Halevi Abulafia, patron, 61-62 
shield of Castile, 62 
stucco ornament, 62 
women’s gallery turned into museum 
explaining Iberian Jewish life, 62 
concept of originality, 63 
conquest by Ferdinand III of Castile, 53-54 
chapels and burial spaces added, 54 
conversion of mosque into church, 

mudejarstyle pantheon for Castilian 
royalty, 54 

convivencia, social harmony in Cordoba 
c Abd al-Rahman I, 64 
al-Andalus, 64 
dhimmis, 64 

Islamic-Christian negotiations, 65 
Pact of c Umar, ca. 637, 64 
treaty by Ibn c Asakir, 64 
treaty of Tudmir, 713, 64 
evacuation of Muslims and Jews, 54 
Franco regime, 56 
Hispano-Islamic identity, 55 
Hispano-Umayyad rule, 5 1 
increasing immigrants and diversity after 
Spain’s entry into European Union 
in 1986, 60-61 

Islamic Council’s petition to Pope 

John Paul for the right to pray, 
2004/2006, 56-57 

minaret demolished and replaced by larger 
tower, 58-59 

Museo de San Vicente, 58-59 
museological perspectives, 57-60 
historical study overseen by 
Manuel Nieto Cumplido 
(canon-priest/archivist), 58 
Pedro Marffl (archaeologist), 58 


Subject Index 

The Great Mosque of Cordoba ( cont . ) 

1985 Spanish Historic Heritage Law 
No. 16, 57-58 

stone inscription of minaret location, 

owned by Catholic Church, 57-58 
recent construction of mosques in 
Corboda, 57 

Roman and Byzantine influence, 52 
social and economic issues of repossession, 

Great Rebellion of 1925-1927, 176 
Great War, 198 

Great Zimbabwe mins, 233-234 
Greek national identity, 2, 156, 158 
Ground zero, 7,17 

See also 9/11 Incident influencing 
paramilitary murals 

GSA, see United States Government Services 
Administration (GSA) 

Guatemala, 13, 21, 27, 29, 33, 261-264 
Guayaquil, 23 


Hague Convention, 1 5 
Haj, 150 

Hapsburg kings in Spain, 54 
Harpers Ferry National Park, 16 
Harry Potter, 138 
Hashemite regime, 1 1 
Haunted ghost walks, 125-127, 132-134, 

Haunted (haunted house) in York, 1 26 
Hawass, Dr. Zahi (Director General of Egypt’s 
Supreme Council of Antiquities), 
145-148, 153 

Herculaneum, discovery of, 197 
Heritage and politics, 24-28 
Egypt, 25 
France, 27-28 
Greece, 26 
Istanbul, 24-25 
Italy, 25-26 
Saudi Arabia, 28 
Heritage Management, 10 
Heritage sites, see World Heritage 

Heritage structure factors, in the Balkans, 


Bodnar’s view, 111 
Bourdieu’s concept of, 110-111 

distinction between doxa and opinion, 

helpful in explaining individuals 
influence on heritage making, 1 10 
improvising cultural rules, 111 
jazz musicians’ compositions, 1 1 1 
“universe of discourse”, 111 
“universe of the undiscussed”, 1 10-1 1 1 

archaeological record, 1 1 3 
built environment and landscape, 1 13 
written documents, 1 1 3 
imagination, 112 

Appadurai’s concept, 112 
collective sense of, 112 
Giddens’ “theory of 
structuration”, 112 
landscape, 112 
new heritage tropes, 1 12 

found or created, 112 
landscape-centered, ethno-archaeology, 

Shackel’s and Fewster’s argument, 

national identity and ethnic origins 
according to Anderson, 113 
dynamic experience, 113 
strong dependance on the past, 113 
Hernandez’s excavations justifying legitimacy 
of Church's possession, 

Cordoba, 59 

Heterodoxy, 111, 113, 119, 121 
High Commissioner’s decrees of 1926 and 
1928, Syria, 176 

Hill forts in Albania, 114-115, 122 
Hindus, 8, 17-18, 135-136 
and Muslims, tension, 17 

See also Babri Masjid, Ayodhya, India 
Hispano-Umayyad mle, 5 1 
“History is written by the winner”, nationalist 
mural, 70-71 
Hitler, Adolf, 147 

Holy Cross Primary School, Ardoyne, 

Belfast, 89 

Home rule in 1880s, 73 
Honduras, 21, 27 
Howard University, 5 
Hoxha’s “bunkerization”, 116-117 
Hunger strike, Belfast, 79-81, 104 
Hybrid cultures, 19, 114-115, 157-158, 160, 
164, 168 

Hypogeum of Yarhai from Palmyra, 178 

Subject Index 



ICCROM, see International Centre for the 
Study of the Preservation and 
Restoration of Cultural Property 

ICOMOS, see International Council on 

Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) 
Idlib Regional Museum, 181 
Illegal antiquities, 10, 61, 80, 93, 101, 
142-145, 143, 163, 168, 261 
Illegal antiquities, ownership, and nationalism, 

Bamiyan Buddhas, destruction by 
Taliban, 15 
Egypt, 14 
Greece, 14 

Iraq National Museum, 15 
Machu Picchu, Peru, 14 
refusal to return cultural objects, 14-15 
St. Lawrence Island, 14 
Illicit Trafficking of Antiquities, 13, 163 
Illyrian tribes, 1 14-116 
The Imperial Fora, 199, 202 
Inca heritage, 15, 23, 25 
Incarceration, Belfast, 80-81, 85, 104 
9/11 Incident influencing paramilitary murals 
in Belfast, 95 
The Independent , 70, 93 
Indigenous peoples, 3-4, 11, 14, 16-17, 19-21, 
23, 253 

INLA, see Irish National Liberation Army 

Inscription of Enver Hoxha’s first name on a 
hillside in Albanian town 
ofBerat, 116 

Intangible heritage, 28-29 

conundrums of UNESCO convention, 29 
Maya of Guatemala, 29 
UNESCO’s promulgation, 28 
Intangible practices, 2, 10, 14, 23, 28, 34, 162, 
240-241, 241, 250, 253, 264 
Interior of original prayer hall, Great Mosque 
of Cordoba, 52 

International Centre for the Study of the 
Preservation and Restoration of 
Cultural Property (ICCROM), 222 
International community, 15, 163, 207, 215, 
222-223, 236 

International Council on Monuments and Sites 
(ICOMOS), 21, 222, 227, 240-241 
International Journal of Cultural Property, 5 
International Journal of Heritage Studies, 5 

International Journal of Intangible 
Heritage, 28 
Interpol, 145 

Invented tradition, 2, 160, 223, 241 
See also Intangible practices 
Invention, 2, 35, 63, 241 
IPLO, see Irish People’s Liberation 
Organization (IPLO) 

IRA, see Irish Republican Army (IRA) 

Iraklio Museum, 12 
Iraq Museum, 150 

Irish Famine of 1845-1849, An Gorta Mor, 87 
Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), 

79, 82 

Irish People’s Liberation Organization 
(IPLO), 82 

Irish Republican Army (IRA), 79-80, 82, 85, 
87, 89,91,97, 100, 103 
Islamic-Christian negotiations, 65 
Isolation, Shala’s primary survival mechanism 
in Albania, 75, 1 19-120 
Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 180-181 
Italy, the past and cultural heritage in, 193-194 
ancient heritage and origins, 196-197 
archaeological area of Rome, 
illustration, 200 
discovery of Pompeii and 
Herculaneum, 197 

fascism, and philosophies at the birth of, 
Attualismo, 198 
Futurismo, 198 
management, 198-203 

phase I, liberal period and integration of 
past landscapes, 199-201 
phase II, fascist remodeling of classical 
landscapes, 201-203 
nationalism, 195-196 
objects found during looting-like sprees in 
Roman villas, 199 
Pope’s lack of significance, 199 
Rome, as case study sample in valuing 
cultural heritage, 194-195 
valuation of, 194-195 
Italy-Syria initiative, 180-181 


Jam ‘iyyat al- Adiyyat (Archaeological Society 
in Syria), 182 
Jews, 25, 54, 62, 64 
Jokhang Temple, 26 
Jordanian heritage bureaucracy, 1 1 
Jordanian policy, 1 1 


Subject Index 

Journal of Field Archaeology, 1 3 
Journal of Social Archaeology, 10 
Journal of the World Archaeological 
Congress, 10 


Kahlo Museum, 19 

Kanuni i Leke Dukagjinit (oral customary law 
code), 118, 121 

Kelly, Gerard (Mo Chara) and Devenney’s 
paintings, 90-92 
Kennewick Man, 6 
Kerekou rule, 206-207 
Khmer Rouge regime, 22 
Kill All Taigs (KAT), 104 
King Adandozan, 210-211 
King Akhenaten, 147 
King Gezo (king of Dahomey), 210-211 
King of Italy, 195, 199 
King of Savoy, 195 
King Ramesses I, 145 
King Ramesses II, 152 
Knossos, 12 

Korean War in 1950, 186 
Kosova, Albania, 114, 119-120 
Kuhnian paradigm shift, 5 


La Paz, 23 

La Ruta Maya, 11, 27 
Lefebvre, Gustave, 147 
Legitimation of Irish culture, 93-95 
Lenca, western Honduras ethnic group, 27 
Leptis Magna, 26 

Liberal period and integration of past 
landscapes in Italy, 199-201 
Libya, 25-26, 202 
Lincoln, Abraham, 9 
Living TV, 126 

Local/local-national disputes, 17 
Local, national, and international deployment, 
Angkor, 22 
disparity in Cuzco, 23 
Hassan Fathy’s plan for Goumis, 20-21 
interconnectedness, 24 
issue of land rights, 22 
2001 Land Law, 22 
local-national conflict in Bolivia, 23 
San Biritute, carved monolith, 23 
tourist massacre at Temple of 
Hatshepsut, 20 
Long Kesh, prison, 80, 91-93 

Looting and trafficking, 10, 13-15, 15, 20-21, 
85, 118, 142, 144, 150, 163, 

199, 261 

Looting in Apollonia’s necropolis, 118 
Lord Rama, 8 

Louvre Museum, France, 14, 144, 153, 173, 
175-176, 176 

Lovemore, lames (Zimbabwean sculptor), 

Lower Shankill mural dedicated to Oliver 
Cromwell, Belfast, 99-100 
Lowland Scottish “undertakers” cruelty, 72-73 
Loyalist murals 

of balaclava-clad gunman, 83 
depicting a Scottish piper, 94 
depicting William of Orange defeating 
King James at the battle of the 
Boyne, 78-79 
of “Eddie”, 84 

in Lower Shankill, Belfast, 97 
Loyalists vs. unionists, Belfast, 77 
Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF), 82, 85 
Luxor, 20, 145 

LVF, see Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) 


Maasai, Kenya, 9 

“Macedonia — Timeless”, TV promotional 
ad, 26 

Machu Picchu, Peru, 14, 26 
Madrasa al Adiliya, 175 
Maison des Esclaves, Senegal, 206, 228 
Mallakastra Regional Archaeological Project 
(MRAP), 115, 117-118 
The Mandate, 173-174, 176-186, 189 
Manifesto Futurista, 198 
Manufacture, marketing, and consumption of 
heritage sites, 11-12, 12, 18 
“creating Copan”, 1 1 
Crete, 12 
Cuzco, Peru, 12 
Ireland, 11-12 
Jordan road signage, 1 1 
Maya communities, 10-11 
Mochica Village, Lambayeque, Peru, 1 1 
Pharaonic Village, Cairo, Egypt, 1 1 
Shangri-La, Yunnan Province, China, 1 1 
Marfil, Pedro (archaeologist), 56, 58 
Mari, excavations at (Syria), 176-177 
Marinetti, Filippo, 193, 197-198 
Market & Opinion Research International, Ltd 
(MORI), 167 
Markets of Trajan, 202 

Subject Index 


Masada, 1-2, 34 

Mass Grave Memorial, Slave Route, Benin, 
214, 220 

Mausoleum of Augustus, 202 

communities, 10-11, 21, 27, 35, 263 
hieroglyphs, 263 
landscape, 11 

and non-Maya, dichotomy, 27 
tours, 11, 27, 262-263 
Mayers Ranch, Kenya, 9 
The Maze, 80-81 

McEwen, Frank, 234-235, 237-239, 241, 

McGuinness, Martin (Deputy First 
Minister), 80 

“Men-with-guns” paramilitary archetype, 

depicting violence of the past, 70 

Albania, 119-120 
Belfast, 72 

Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Egyptian 
Department, 144 
Mexico, 19-21, 27, 35, 262-263 
Michael Carlos Museum, Atlanta, 144 
Mihrab, Cordoba, 53-54 
Ministry of Religious Endowments, Syria, 

Misconceptions of murals, 101-102 
Mochica Village, Lambayeque, Peru, 1 1 
Montenegro, 114, 119 
Monument to the Unknown Soldier, 151 
“Moorish” themes, Cordoba, 63 
MORI, see Market & Opinion Research 
International, Ltd (MORI) 
Moroccan-style tea houses, Cordoba, 63 
Most Haunted, TV program, 138 
MRAP, see Mallakastra Regional 

Archaeological Project (MRAP) 
Multi-ethnic states, 26-27 

in Ardoyne, 85 
of balaclava-clad gunman, 83 
of Bobby Sands, 81-82 
Cluan Place, 98, 101 
commemorating deceased IRA 
volunteers, 87 
Ctichulainn, 95 
of "Eddie”, 84 

for Frank Gillen Community Centre, 9 1 
Guernica, 103 
in Lower Shankill, 97 
Mo Chara, 92 

Red Hand of Ulster, 99 
replication of Guernica by Devenny and 
Ervine, 102-103 
in the temple of Dagun, 210 
of William of Orange, 78 
Musee de 1’ Homme, 27 
Musee des Arts d’Afrique et d’Oceanie, 27 
Musee du Quai Branly, 27-28 
Museo de San Vicente, 58-60 

masons’ signatures, plaster impressions, 

58, 60 

plan of mosque, 59 
Museums and Communities, 4 
Muslims, 11, 51, 54, 56-57, 61-62, 64, 149, 

Mussolini, Benito, 25, 31, 194-195, 197-198, 

Mythico-history, 132-133 

NAGPRA, see Native American Graves 

Protection and Repatriation Act 

Naples, 196-197 

“The Nara Document on Authenticity”, 222 
National Art Gallery, Zimbabwe, 241 
National Courthouse at Maadi, linking the 
contemporary to the ancient, 151 
National Gallery of Zimbabwe, 234, 237, 

241, 245 

National Geographic Society, 27, 29 
National Geographic Traveler, 1 26 
National Historic Landmark, 5 
National identity of Egypt, 150-152 
connection to the past, 151-152 
National Courthouse at Maadi, linking the 
contemporary to the ancient, 151 
Pharaonic past used as logos in stamps, 
currency, newspaper mastheads, 
etc., 151 

relocation of the statue of Ramesses II, 152 
Saad Zaghloul mausoleum, 150 
Nationalism in Italy, 195-196 
Nationalist murals, 69-71, 76, 80, 88-90 
Nationalist Party approach, 179 
National Museum of Aleppo, Syria, 172, 

182- 185 

Aleppo housing the Archaeological Society 
( Jam ‘ivy at al- 'Adiyvat), 182 
architectural design and renovations, 

183- 184 

fafade replica of the Tell Halaf/Guzana 
portico, 183 


Subject Index 

National Museum of Aleppo, Syria ( cont .) 
first curated by Ploix de Retrou, 182 
focus on excavated materials from the north 
alone, 183-185 
location, 182 
the Mandate, 182-183 
prehistoric, pre-Islamic, Hellenistic, and 
Islamic material, 183 
National Museum of Damascus, 172, 

174-183, 189 

National museums of Syria, map, 172 
National Trust, 126, 130 
National Vodun Day, 207, 209, 218-219 
Native American Graves Protection and 

Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), 3, 6, 

Native American Indian, 6, 13 

Natural beauty of Albania, 120 

Nazca, Peru, 25 

Nazi death camps, 7 

Nedlaw Sculpture Forum, 241 

Neo-Pagans, 133 

New Acropolis Museum, 31, 159, 


blend of neoclassical and ancient 
architecture, 167 

designed by Tschumi and Fotiadis, 164 
entrance, 165 

mirroring ancient and contemporary 
architectural praxis, 164-165 
Parthenon gallery, 165-166 
New direction in mural art, 85 
New millennium apprehensions, 10-29 
heritage and politics, 24-28 
illegal antiquities, 13-15 
intangible heritage, 28-29 
local, national, and international 
deployment, 20-24 

manufacture, marketing, and consumption, 

public outreach, 15-17 
value and UNESCO, 1 8-20 
New World, 7, 72, 213, 215, 218 
New York City, 5, 7, 141, 153, 239, 248 
The New York Times, 14-15 
Niagara Falls, 145 
Nile River, 21 

Nine Years War, 1594-1603, 73 
“Nofri”, cultural symbol of Berlin, 147 
Norbulingka, 26 

Northern Albanian tribes, 118-120 
Northern t'j. southern Albanian tribes, 



Obama, Barack, 26 

Oblivion, 2, 18 

O’Connell, Daniel, 73 

Orange Order, 78 

Ordinance of 1835, 142, 153 

The Ornament of the World, 63 

Orthodoxy, Albania, 111, 114-117, 119-121 

Orti (gardens), 196 

Ortiz-Torres, Ruben, Mexican muralist, 

86, 104 

Ottoman Empire, 24-25, 115, 119, 141, 157 
“Ouidah ’92”, 210, 212, 229 
Ouidah, Benin, 206-215, 217-226, 228-229 
Outline of a Theory of Practice, 1 1 0 


Pact of c Umar, ca. 637, 64 

The Palatine Hill, 196, 199, 202 

Palestinian intifada, 2001, 1 1 

Palmyra, excavations at (Syria), 176, 1 178 

Pan-Indian activism, 27 

Papal States, 194-196 

Parade routes, Belfast, 78-79 

Parade season, 77-79, 83, 85, 100 

Paradigm shift, 1-9 

Bruner and Gorfain analysis of Masada, 

dissonant heritage, 7 
Elmina Castle, 7 
evidence, 5 

abused minority group claims, 5 
African burial ground, 5 
Colonial Williamsburg, 5-6 
Kennewick Man, 6 
Handler’s study on Quebec, 2 
Herzfeld’s study on Greece, 2 
Lowenthal’s study on Western past, 2 
museums, 4 
Nazi death camps, 7 

Paramilitary murals, 70, 72, 83-85, 95-96, 

Paranormal activity, see British ghost tourism, 
re-imagining the national past 
Paranormal Channel, 126 
Parnell, Charles Stewart, 73 
“Partage”, 143-144, 147 
Parthenon Gallery, 165 
Parthenon Marbles, 155, 166-168 

aquired by Lord Elgin, “Elgin Marbles”, 

canons of artistic supremacy, 158 
colonial hubris, 159-162 

Subject Index 


depicting European knowledge of ancient 
art and architecture, 158 
folk stories of spirits living in sculptures 
as human beings petrified by 
magicians, 157-158 

frieze, caryatid, metopes, parts of columns, 
pedimental figures, etc., 157 
Greece now actively committed to limit 
antiquity theft, 163 
Butrint return, statues of Artemis and 
Apollo, 163 

return of five other classical pieces in 
2003, 163 

Greek claim for restitution, 158-159 
Britain’s refusal, 159 
diplomatic negotiations, 158-159 
Wilson's arguments defending against, 

Greeks considered unworthy of cultural 
heritage, 160-161, 163 
historical consciousness and national 
identity, 156-157 

“missing link” of cultural past, 158 
nations, stakeholders, and memory, 

New Acropolis Museum, 164-166 
blend of neoclassical and ancient 
architecture, 167 

designed by Tschumi and Fotiadis, 164 
entrance, 165 

mirroring ancient and contemporary 
architectural praxis, 164-165 
Parthenon gallery, 165-166 
reflection of the Parthenon on the main 
gallery, 166 

Parthenon marbles, 157-158 
promoting co-operation between British 

and Greek curatorship vs. claims of 
ownership, 166-168 
re-creation of classical Greek with 
neoclassical architecture 
in Athens, 159 
reverse archaeology, 163 
sacred and essential symbols, 1 60 
The Past Is A Foreign Country, 2 
Peace Parks initiative, 33, 263-264 
Pearse, Patrick, 73 
Pedro I (Pedro the Cruel), 61-62 
Penal Laws, 73, 79, 87 
Pera/Beyoglu district, Istanbul, 24-25 
Permanent Committee of Antiquities, 143 
Petty, William, 1623-1687, 76 

Pharaonic antiquities law and problems of 

Decree of 1869, 142 
Decree of 1891, 143 
encouraged by Mariette, 142-143 
Law 12 of 1897, 143 
Law 14 of 1912, 143 
Law 215 of 1951, 143 
Law of 1983, 142 
new law being drafted, 144 
Order of 1880, 142 
Ordinance of 1835, 142 
repatriation of objects, 144-145 
Schultz, Parry and Johnson involved in 
illegal trade, 144 

Pharaonic past used as logos in stamps, 

currency, newspaper mastheads, 
etc., 151 

The Phoenicians, 26, 234 

Piano di Sistematizzazione della Zona 

Monumentale Riservata di Roma 
(Management Plan for the Reserved 
Monumental Area of Rome), 199 
Piano Regolatore Generate (PRG), 1 99-200, 

Piazza del Popolo, 199 
Piazza Venezia, 194-195, 200 
The Poetics and Politics of Museum 
Display, 4 

Police Service of Northern Ireland 
(PSNI), 86 

The Politics of Public Culture, 4 
Pompeii, discovery of, 197 
Popularity of ghosts, 125-126 
“The Portland Vase”, 159 
Potala Palace, 26 

Prayer hall, Cordoba Cathedral-Mosque, 52 
Prevalence of Irish language in republican 
murals, 92-93 

PRG, see Piano Regolatore Generate 

Primitivist art, 244-245, 248 
Protestants, 30, 73-74, 93, 96-97, 100, 

131, 133 

Protestants vs. Catholics, 30, 74-75 
Protestant Ascendency shaken in early 
twentieth century, 73-74 
Protestant “theatrical calendar”, 79 
Provisional IRA, 80, 82 
Pseudoscience, 32, 130 
PSNI, see Police Service of Northern Ireland 

Public Archaeology, 10 


Subject Index 

Public outreach, cultural heritage, 15-17 
African Americans, poorly served, 1 7 
Australian Aboriginal stakeholders, 16-17 
old, mud-coated sign, Harpers Ferry 
National Park, 16 


Qasr al-Hayr al Gharbi, Syria, 176, 178 
Oibla wall, Cathedral-Mosque, Cordoba, 

The Queen as an ultimate national symbol, 

93, 135 

Queen of Sheba, 234 


Raqqa Museum, 172, 185-188 
chronologically organized, 187 
evidenced by Tell Bi’a, 185 
exterior view, 186 

focuses on future growth and development, 

Korean War in 1950, resulting in cotton 
cultivation, 186 
location, 185 

material being usurped by Aleppo or 
Damascus Museums, 186-187 
migration of Syrians from Deir ez-Zor, 

model of future, 188 
origin and hierarchical establishments 
down the ages, 185-186 
Raqqa, trading-post between Bedouin and 
townspeople, 187 
Tabqa Dam Project, 186 
Real IRA, 82, 103 
Re-contextualization, 171, 173, 189 
Red Hand Commandos, 82, 99 
Red Hand Defenders, 82 
“Red hand of Ulster”, mural, 98-99 
Reformation battles between Catholics and 
Protestants, 131-133 
“Re-Imaging Communities Programme”, 
Belfast, 95-96, 102 

Religion and nationalism contestation, 29-30 
Benin, West Africa, 30 
Catholics vs. Moslems, Spain, 29-30 
Catholics vs. Protestants, Ireland, 30 
Religion and politics, Belfast, 75-77 
Religious conflicts in Britain, 131-133 
Religious prohibition and death penalty in 
Albania, 1 17 

Relocation of physical structures in 
Albania, 115 

Relocation of the statue of Ramesses II, 152 

Removal of the Velia Hill for construction of 
via dell’Impero, 1932, 201 
“Renovation and Reorganization of the 

National Museum of Damascus 
and Rehabilitation of the Citadel of 
Damascus”, Italy-Syria initiative, 

Repatriation, 14, 23-24, 31, 95, 144-147, 
149-150, 153, 155-168 
Repatriation requests 

by Africa for the Benin bronzes, 163 
by Egypt for Rosetta Stone and bust of 
Nefertiti, 163 

Greece’s claim for Parthenon Marbles, 

by Hungary for the Crown of 
St. Stephen, 163 

Repository of ghosts (England), 136 
graffiti, 80 

movement, 73, 86, 104 
murals/muralists, 73, 77, 80-81, 85-92, 96, 
98, 104 

Republic of Macedonia, 26 
Restitution, see Repatriation 
Retribalization and radical reorientation in 
Albania, 121 

Reverse archaeology, 1 63 
Revolutionary War-era Virginia, 6 
Rhodesia, see Zimbabwean sculptors 
Rhodesia Herald, 238 

Rhodes National Gallery, see National Gallery 
of Zimbabwe 
“The Rokeby Venus”, 159 
Roman and Byzantine influence in 
Cordoba, 52 
Roman Forum, 199, 202 
Roman ghosts, 130 
Rosetta Stone, 14, 30-31 
debate of ownership, 146 
discovered and taken by Napoleon’s 
soldiers, 145 

request for repatriation, 146 
seized and shifted to the British Museum 
after French defeat, 145 
translation of scripts written 
on, 145-146 

“Route of the Maya” tours, 27 
Royal palace of Daagbo Hounon, 


Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum, Peru, 1 1 
Royal Uester Constabulary (RUC), 86 
Ruta Maya, 1 1, 27 

Subject Index 



SAA Bulletin, 6 

Saad Zaghloul mausoleum, 150 
Sabratha, 26 

Sadat, President Anwar, 151 
Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural 
Heritage, 233, 240, 253 
San Biritute (precolumbian Ecuadorian carved 
monolith), 23 
Sarajevo, Albania, 117 
Saudi Arabia, 28 

“Saving Sites By Transforming Lives”, 20 
Scots-Ulster Presbyterians, 77 
Sculpture at Tengenenge on pedestals, forest 
artwork, 236 

Sculpture industry and politics (Rhodesia), 

Sectarian military activity, Belfast, 82 
Select Committee of the House of 
Commons, 157 
Selective erosion, 2 
September 11 attack, 11, 95 
Service des Antiquites, 1920, 176, 183 
Settlers attracted by industrial revolution, 
Belfast, 74 
Seville, 54-55, 57 
Shala people, Albania, 118-120 
Shala Valley Project (SVP), 118, 122 
Shambles, York, 127, 134, 138 
Shankill Road, 75, 80, 83-84, 94, 99 
Shipment of Catholics as slaves, 72 
Shkoder, Albania, 119-120 
Shona sculpture, 31-32, 234, 237, 241-242, 
245, 248-250, 252-253 
Siege of Derry, 1689, 77-78 
Slave coast, 206 

The Slave Route, Benin, West Africa 
authenticity, 223-227 
authority, 226-227 
originality, 225-226 
verisimilitude, 224—225 
memory, social constructions of, 205-208 
African American tourists exploring 
through “roots tourism”, 206-207 
“Black Atlantic”, 206 
enslaved Africans at Elmina Castle, 208 
Kerekou rule discouraging tourists, 

National Vodun Day, 207 
Ouidah, formerly the largest slaving 
port, 207 

royal palace of Daagbo Hounon, 207 
slave sites, 206 

slaves ported mainly to Brazil, 208 
slave traders, 208 
trans-Atlantic slave trade, 207 
Vodun, attracting tourists, 207 
past events and present disruptions, 

heritage ownership, 222 
tourist-guide frustrations, 222-223 
performing the Slave Route, 210-219 
“auction block”, 211-212, 220 
Dantissa, auction block, 21 1-212 
de Souza’s barracoons, 214, 220 
Door of No Return, 217-218 
emotional rememberings of the past, 

Mass Grave Memorial, 220 
sculptures, 212-214 
Tree of Forgetting, 213 
Tree of Return, 215-217, 220 
village of Zoungbodji, 213-214, 

Zomai, 214-215, 220-221 
Slave Route Project, 208-210 

local government and UNESCO 
support, 208-209 
Vodun, tourist attraction, 209-210 
Slave Route Project, Benin, West Africa, 

Soapstone bunker ashtrays in Albania, 1 16 
The Social Life of Things, 223 
Society for American Archaeology, 6 
Spas, 63 

“Spirit Ancestor”, sculptural artwork, 242 
Spoliation, 52, 173, 189 
St. Lawrence Island, 14 
St. Louis Art Museum, 145 
St. Margaret of York, 134 
Stone houses (zimbabwes), 233-234, 240 
Stone sculpture industry, 234, 236, 240, 252 
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Belfast, 100 
Superiority of science over religion, 128-129 
Supreme Council of Antiquities, 144-145, 
145, 151, 153 

Sventramenti (gutting), 201-202 
SVP, see Shala Valley Project (SVP) 
Sykes-Picot agreement, 171 
Symbolism in murals, 96 
Synagogue of Dura Europus, 178 
Syria, national museums in, 171-172 

future progress and modernity, 188-190 
history of, 171-174 

colonization by the Ottomans and 
French, 171 


Subject Index 

Syria, national museums ( cont .) 

declared as sovereign nation in 1 946, 
171, 174 

foreign expeditions tapping Syria’s 
antiquities, 172 

museums, vehicle of knowledge and 
identity, 174 

museum system originated by 
nationalist intellectuals, 171 
map showing locations of national 
museums, 172 

National Museum of Damascus 

al-majma‘al-‘ilmi al-'arabi (Arab 
Academy), 175 
Ba’th Party, 180 

Bloc Party and Nationalist Party 
approach, 179 

Classical and Byzantine material, 177, 

community outreach activities, 180-181 
Damascene Hall, 177, 179 
Damascus, one of world's oldest cities 
and capital of Syrian Arab 
Republic, 174 

discovery and excavation, 176 
focus on Islamic material, 175-176 
French Mandate, 1918-1946, 174, 176 
Great Rebellion of 1925-1927, 176 
High Commissioner’s decrees of 1926 
and 1928, shifting control of Arab 
Academy under French 
direction, 176 

Italy-Syria initiative, 180-181 
location, 175 
Madrasa al ‘Adiliya, 175 
printed guide, 1952, 179 
sculpture garden, cafe, and gift shop, 

Sendee des Antiquites, 1920, 176 
spatial inadequacy resulting in 
construction of new building, 

synagogue of Dura Europus, 178 
tourist audiences, 180-181 
regional museums, 181-188 

National Museum of Aleppo, 182-185 
Raqqa Museum, 185-188 
Sykes-Picot agreement, 171 


Tabqa Dam Project, 186 
Tadrart Acacus, 26 
“Taigs”, 104 

Technoscience spirituality, 137 
Tell el-Amama, 147 
Tell Halaf/Guzana portico, facade 
replica of, 183 

Temple of Dagun, wall mural, 210 
Temple of Hatshepsut, 20 
Temples in Albania, 1 1 5 
Terrorism, 30, 55, 70, 81, 83, 85-87, 95, 101 
Text, Play and Story: The Construction and 
Reconstruction of Self and 
Society, 1 
Theth, Albania, 120 
Tiber River, 199 
Tiwanaku, 23, 26 
Tolerance, British, 134—135 
Tomb of Seti I, 144 
Tone, Theobald Wolfe, 73 
Totalitarian dictatorship in Albania, 116, 121 
Tourist art, 242-245, 247-249, 253 
“Tourist/tribal art”, 244-245 
Trading of guns and ammunitions in 
Albania, 120 

Traditional art, 32, 121, 178, 189, 237, 240, 
242, 244-245, 250, 263 
Trajan, 199, 202 

Trans-Atlantic slave trade, 206-207, 209-210, 
214, 217, 219-220, 224-225, 

Treaty by Ibn c Asakir, 64 
Treaty of Tudmir, 7 13, 64 
Tree of Forgetting, Slave Route, Benin, 213, 
215-216, 223 

Tree of Return, Slave Route, Benin, 215-217, 
220, 225 

Tribal councils in Albania, 121 
Tribal oral customary law code, Albania, 

118, 121 

Tribal system in Shala, almost extinct due to 
communism, 120 
“Triumph of defeat”, 80 
“The Troubles”, 69, 74, 77, 79-80 
Tuatha de Danann, 90 
Tudor and Cromwellian reconquests, 72 
Turkey, 2, 8, 24-25, 157, 161, 176, 185 


UCLA, University of California at Los Angeles 

UDA, see Ulster Defense Association (UDA) 
UDR, see Ulster Defense Regiment (UDR) 
UFF, see Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) 

Ulster Defense Association (UDA), 82, 84-85, 
89, 94, 98-99, 101, 104 

Subject Index 


Ulster Defense Regiment (UDR), 82, 97 
Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), 79, 82, 84, 99 
“Ulster People Take Stand Against Republican 
Tyranny”, 97 
Ulster Scots, 93-95, 99 
Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), 82, 85, 94, 

Ulster Young Militants (UYM), 82, 99 
Umayyad dynasty, 51-52, 174, 177, 185 
UNESCO, 4, 7, 10, 13, 15, 18-20, 22, 24, 
26-30, 33-35, 58, 147, 158, 
162-163, 182, 208-209, 217, 
222-224, 226-229, 233, 240-241, 
250, 253, 264 
UNESCO’s promulgations 

1970 Convention for the Protection of 
Antiquities, 163 

1972 Convention Concerning the 

Protection of the World Cultural and 
Natural Heritage, 18 

2001 Universal Declaration on Cultural 

Diversity, 28, 264 

2002 Universal Declaration on Cultural 

Diversity, 162 

2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of 

the Intangible Heritage, 28, 264 
Unionists, 77, 98, 100 
Union Jack, 78, 80, 93, 100 
United Irishmen, 73, 104 
United States Congress, 3 
United States Government Services 
Administration (GSA), 5 
Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, 
2001,28, 162, 264 

University of California at Los Angeles 
(UCLA), 20 

UVF, see Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) 

UYM, see Ulster Young Militants (UYM) 


Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Egypt, 20 
Value and UNESCO, 18-20 ' 

Mexico, heritage sites, 19-20 
Pressouyre’s contradiction, 18 
protecting buildings ix human values, 19 
“universal" authority, contestation, 20 
World Heritage Convention, 1 8 
World Heritage List, 19 
World Heritage Sites, 18-19 
Vatican museum, 196-197, 202 
Via dei Fori Imperiali, 201-202 
Via della Conciliazione, 202 
Via dell'Impero, 200-201 

Vikings, 99, 131-133, 135-136 
Village of Zoungbodji, Benin, 213-217, 

Visigothic and Roman materials, Cordoba, 57 
Visoko, Bosnia, 32, 1 17-118 
Vodun, 30, 207, 209-212, 218-219, 229 
Vodun Dagun, priest, 211 
Voussoirs, Cathedral-Mosque of Cordoba, 


WAC, see World Archaeological Congress 

Walk of Repentance, Benin, 209-210 
Wall mural, temple of Dagun, 210 
Wiccans, 133 
Wierdos, 8 

William III of Orange (King Billy), 1650-1702, 

“Witchdoctor”, sculptural artwork, 242 
World Archaeological Congress (WAC), 

2^1, 35 

World Heritage Centre, 19 
World Heritage Convention, 4, 18-19, 34 
World Heritage List (WHL), 7, 18-19, 26, 34 
World Heritage Sites, 8, 18-19, 22-23, 25-26, 
59, 222, 240 

World Monuments Fund, 20 
World-systems theory, 119 
World War I, 144, 173-174, 197 
World War II, 1 16, 147, 179, 201, 203 


Yale University, 14 

YCV, see Young Citizens’ Volunteers (YCV) 
York, most haunted city in the world (BBC 
report), 125-127, 129-134, 

136, 138 

York Minster, 127, 138 

Young Citizens’ Volunteers (YCV), 82 

Yucatan Peninsula, 2 1 


Zellij tile and cusped arches, spas Alhambra 
style in Cordoba, 63 
Zimbabwean sculptural heritage 

art market complications, 242-244 
codified cultural heritage, 240-241 
fine art vs. ethnographic art debate, 

cultural heritage linking modem and 
ancient artwork, 239-240 
McEwen’s support and failings, 239 
heritage not carved in stone, 250-253 


Subject Index 

Zimbabwean sculptural heritage ( cont . .) 
historical background, 233-236 
British colonial period, 234-235 
called Rhodesia before independence, 

flourishing center, 233-234 
Shona civilization, 234 
soapstone birds stolen by Europeans, 

struggle for indigenous nationalism, 

Unilateral Declaration of Independence 
(UDI), 235-236 
UN sanctions, 235-236 
modernism vs. postmodernism, 248-249 
modernism vs. tradition, 244—248 
ruins of Great Zimbabwe, 233-234 

sculpture industry and politics, 237-239 
artistic battle for legitimacy, 238 
criticism of contemporary stone 
sculpture, 238 

1962 First International Congress of 
African Culture in Rhodesia, 237 
key component, 237 
McEwen's support and failings, 
237-239, 241 

Parliamentary debates over closure of 
National Gallery, 238 

Zimbabwean stone sculpture movement, 233, 
238, 240-243, 250 

Zimbabwe: Talking Stones (TV documentary), 

Zomai, 214-215, 220 

Zomai enclosure, 214-215